The Brief: Martin Schulz is in the running for three jobs

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Pressure is mounting on Martin Schulz. He wants to stay on for a third term as president of the European Parliament. But can he?

Schulz has been trying to win over the centre-right parties in his bid to bend the rules and serve a third term starting in mid-2017. Things got even more complicated for the centre-left president yesterday.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier was tipped to give up his post as German foreign minister and become the country’s president in February.

German presidents serve a mostly ceremonial role, but the cabinet reshuffle will cause a chain reaction that could stretch all the way to Brussels. Berlin is buzzing with rumours that Martin Schulz is the top pick to replace Steinmeier as Germany’s next chief diplomat.

If he’s chosen for the job, Schulz will have to make some decisions.

Next month, the centre-right EPP is expected to announce its candidate to take over Schulz’s seat as European Parliament president.

But there’s still a chance he will get the nod from the parliament’s largest party and be allowed to stay on. He does have the blessing of his friend Jean-Claude Juncker, after all. Will their cross-party bromance be enough to tilt the scales in President Schulz’s favour?

There is a lot of support for keeping the status quo: European Council President Donald Tusk is also up for a new term next year and could see his candidacy bolstered if Schulz stays on as head of the Parliament.

Depending how things go, Schulz could be spoiled for choice.

The other question is whether he has even bigger ambitions. German Social Democrats prefer Schulz to unpopular Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel as their pick to replace Angela Merkel.

Schulz has been tight-lipped about his preferences. “I achieved in my political life more than I ever dreamed,” he said in an interview this spring when asked whether he’s eyeing the top job.

But if Schulz does want to take over after Merkel’s twelve-year run, is he better placed to step into the race next year as fresh-faced foreign minister or as European Parliament president from far-flung Brussels?


You know what they say about a good offence, being a good defence? Maybe EU ministers don’t, as they seem more afraid of undermining NATO than of their eastern neighbours, after they adopted a minimalist plan. Nobody is saying that an EU army will spring up overnight, even though Spain’s former foreign minister said the days of the bloc being the “lounge pianist” to America’s “sheriff” are over, but Mogherini et al will have to negotiate with an uncooperative Austria, at the very least.

There’s plenty of evidence already to suggest that they will have to revisit the matter soon, after Putin and Trump exchanged sweet nothings on the phone and Moscow approved a joint military group with Armenia. 

Europe’s foreign ministers have plenty of criticism for Turkey’s crackdown after the failed military coup, but they’re not ready to call off the country’s EU membership.

But at least the EU has some sort of plan; a leaked memo confirms what we all thought: that the UK government doesn’t have a Brexit strategy. The trial of the man who murdered Remain MP Jo Cox is continuing.

Obama had sharp words against austerity politics during his visit to Greece today, where he pressed for “meaningful debt relief” and tried to soothe Europe’s fears about President-elect Trump.

Nicolas Sarkozy suggested the EU impose a new tax on imports from the US if Trump pulls out of the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions—but Germany and the European Commission quickly squashed that proposal.

Dozens of Facebook employees have reportedly started a secret task force to investigate how fake news stories are promoted on users’ news feeds, after accusations surfaced that the company’s algorithm might have influenced the US presidential election. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes that Facebook’s algorithm could play into the hands of right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland ahead of next year’s election in Germany. 


The European Commission will announce tomorrow whether it will freeze structural funds for Spain and Portugal as punishment for breaking EU debt and deficit rules. The Commission will also announce its opinion on 2017 national budgets.


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