The Brief: Will Schulz sacrifice third term for shot at Merkel’s job?

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Could Martin Schulz be tempted to risk the prospects of a third term as European Parliament president for a shot at being German chancellor?

The German rumour-mill is grinding louder and louder ahead of next year’s elections. Spiegel reported that many of the party faithful want anyone but the current Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. They think only Schulz has the profile to get them close to the magic 30% threshold needed to stand a chance of stealing Merkel’s crown.

If Schulz stands it will be a slap in the face of his old pal Jean-Claude Juncker. In August, Juncker said it was important Schulz stayed in the job to give Europe some much-needed “stability”.

That ruffled feathers among the centre-right parties in the European Parliament, who backed Schulz on the understanding they would get the presidency in 2017.

Scurrilous rumours abound that Juncker, Schulz, and European Council President Donald Tusk all agreed to support each other’s candidacies at a cosy dinner at the Vatican in May. They were there to drop off the Charlemagne Prize for being a good European with the Pope, who comes from Argentina.

Tusk’s tenure is up for grabs in July 2017. He is under pressure after the Polish government withdrew its support for him. Even though the new Polish government is seen as a bunch of nutjobs by many in Brussels, Tusk is not universally popular.

All this chummy bonhomie and backrubbing could be thrown into the blender if Schulz swans off to Berlin.

There is absolutely no guarantee that Schulz will win the election even if he stands. Merkel’s CDU, although weakened by the refugee crisis, is still stronger than the SPD and, well, this is Merkel we are talking about.

But even if he loses, Schulz could always come back to Brussels and become European Parliament president again.

Just like he did after losing the “election campaign” to be Commission chief in 2014.

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Germany has captured a Syrian refugee suspected of planning a terrorist attack. The arrest will spark questions over Merkel’s refugee policy.

Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, an Austrian, has criticised Merkel’s government for saying African transit countries could get the same migrant deal as Turkey. Turkey is reeling after a suicide bomber killed 18 people in the south east of the country.

Hungary’s largest opposition newspaper has been shut down by the government. The Commission today said it was concerned but admitted it didn’t have the power to do much about the demise of Népszabadság, which often criticised Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Euronews has also found itself in the news for a row over alleged interference in its Russian service.

Russia recently moved nukes into Kaliningrad but that hasn’t stopped Vladimir Putin being awarded the first ever Hugo Chavez Peace Prize. Mikhail Gorbachev has pointed out the obvious – that tensions between the US and Russia are dangerously high. Meanwhile, Germany and France are getting tougher with the Kremlin over Aleppo.

Some British politicians are insisting on a parliament vote on Brexit, but the Brexiteers are calling the shots even if they have backed down on forcing companies to list their foreign workers.

Prime Minister Theresa May is meeting Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen in Copenhagen, followed by talks in The Hague with Mark Rutte. But these are most certainly not negotiations.

Negotiations will only happen after May triggers Article 50, as the Commission said yet again today. British expats are suing Jean-Claude Juncker over “no negotiation without notification”.

The Open Europe think tank has a new post-Brexit mission statement and Donald Trump has promised the UK will be prioritised over the EU in future trade talks.

Berlin is reluctant to top up Juncker’s piggy bank, German companies may save Deutsche Bank, Lithuania is getting a new government, and Estonia’s first female president has taken office.

The World Bank has warned new coal could endanger the Paris climate goals, and we learnt that air pollution causes traffic accidents.


The European Week of Regions and Cities all this week in Brussels. EU finance ministers are meeting in Luxembourg tomorrow. Ministers will adopt conclusions on green finance and tax transparency.


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