Martin Schulz announced this morning (24 November) that he is giving up his bid to serve another term as European Parliament president and will instead campaign for a seat in the German Bundestag in next year’s elections.
German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung first reported late last night that Schulz is planning to run for a Bundestag seat in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Schulz confirmed the move to reporters this morning and then gave a press conference in the European Parliament at 9:30 am in Brussels.
Schulz, a socialist who has been a member of the European Parliament since 1994 and president since 2012, has been rumoured to be a favourite to become the German Social Democrats’ (SPD) chancellor candidate next year. Angela Merkel announced on Sunday (20 November) that she will run for a fourth term.
Recent polls indicated that Schulz is more popular among German Social Democrats than Sigmar Gabriel, the current vice chancellor and minister of economy.
The European Parliament president has been tight-lipped about his ambitions. In an interview this spring, Schulz said, “I achieved in my political life more than I ever dreamed” when asked if he wanted to replace Merkel.
But in recent months, Schulz reportedly tried to garner support in Brussels for another run as Parliament president. He agreed in 2014 to a power-sharing agreement with the centre-right EPP party, the largest political group in the European Parliament.
Under that deal, Schulz would need to step aside and allow an EPP candidate to become president early next year—unless the party agreed to let Schulz stay on. An MEP from the EPP will take over the presidency now that Schulz has agreed to vacate his seat.
Schulz is less well-known in Germany than some national politicians. But Social Democratic Party insiders consider him a more promising candidate than unpopular Gabriel. The party is also considering Schulz to replace Frank-Walter Steinmeier as German foreign minister early next year. Steinmeier will become Germany’s president in February.