The Brief: Schulz springboards from Brussels to Berlin

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.


Today, a man who won’t become the chancellor of Germany, took another step closer to not becoming Germany’s chancellor.

But Brussels old-boy Martin Schulz could take the number two spot in a future coalition government with the hot favourite Angela Merkel.

Not bad for an ex-alcoholic bookseller from Aachen, whose only experience of national politics was a stint as mayor of his hometown.

Current Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel today said he won’t run against Frau Merkel as the SPD candidate, paving the way for the former European Parliament president.

Like François Hollande, Gabriel took a long, hard look at himself, realised he falls short, and stepped aside. He has now thrown his considerable weight behind Schulz.

Schulz’s potential elevation to the upper echelons of German politics is good news for the European Commission, headed up by his old pal Jean-Claude Juncker.

Standing alongside Merkel, Schulz could be a powerful defender of the EU at a time when it is looking decidedly shaky after Brexit and before the upcoming French elections.

Schulz – who enjoys far more favourable poll ratings than Gabriel – is not there yet. There is no guarantee that Merkel will form a coalition with the SPD if she wins.

But if he makes it into the Bundestag, it will be a stunning achievement, reversing an age-old tradition.

Brussels has long been the petting zoo for retired or lame national politicians. Very few manage to turn it into a springboard to the summit of national politics.


Today’s UK Supreme Court judgement ruled that the British parliament must approve the triggering of Article 50. While this is a slight setback for Theresa May, it is unlikely to stop her invoking the legal process to take the UK out of the EU.

May’s Brexit boss, David Davis, said the government will table the Article 50 bill for the parliament vote within days. He also told MPs in Westminster he hoped that a comprehensive customs agreement and free trade agreement with the EU will deliver “the exact same benefits” as membership of the Single Market. Good luck David.

Europe is moving to pick up the scraps after Donald Trump pulled the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. The EU-Canada trade deal CETA has cleared a crucial hurdle in the European Parliament’s trade committee.

The environment committee has moved to increase recycling and landfill targets in the draft Circular Economy package. More to follow on EURACTIV later.

Also due up soon is the latest from ex-Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who has tough words for Trump.

A Spanish MEP has lashed out after a Catalan independence event was arranged in the European Parliament.

Benoit Hamon not only beat Manuel Valls in the first round of the primaries to select a Socialist presidential candidate for the French elections; he outclasses Valls on green issues as well.

Paris has rolled out its first-ever driverless bus service in a bid to fight pollution and congestion. Autonomous vehicles could radically clean up Europe’s transport system, argues Greg Archer of Transport & Environment, which has a new executive director.

You may remember our Brief on Brussels’ fetishisation of innovation. Here is another side to the argument, calling for more focus on life-saving vaccines and less on Smartphone apps.

Jean-Claude Juncker has reiterated his call for all member states to introduce a minimum wage.


The College of Commissioners will meet. On the menu is the Circular Economy action plan, the Energy Union and the Security Union. Also up for discussion is a measure to fight corruption in Romania and Bulgaria.

Views are the author’s alone. 

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