Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) urged his fellow members on Thursday (7 December) to enter into coalition talks with chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives to form a grand coalition.
Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, urged his party to push for the creation of a “United States of Europe” by 2025.
The SPD party congress on Thursday will decide whether the Social Democrats will join forces with Merkel once again, despite fears that the party would not be able to revive itself in the embrace of the Christian Democrats.
After a bruising election in September, Schulz said his party should go into opposition. “We lost not just 1.7 million votes this time, but 10 million since 1998 – half our voters,” he said then.
The approximately 600 SPD delegates are reluctant. The party’s youth wing said the SPD had a “historic responsibility” not to enter government, because it would make far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which came third at the elections, the official opposition.
On the other hand Schulz has some personal popularity, and many also see an opportunity to push forward with a social agenda in Europe with Emmanuel Macron at the helm of France.
“Europe does not always work for its people, rather too often for the big companies,” Schulz said.
But if the SPD members do not back the coalition idea, Schulz’s leadership will come into question.
The Social Democrats are Merkel’s best hope for building a government in her fourth term in office, after discussions with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats failed.
“The question isn’t grand coalition or no grand coalition. Nor minority government or fresh elections. No – it’s about how we exercise our responsibility, including to the next generation, Schulz was quoted by Reuters.
Schulz also called for deeper European integration that could result in a “United States of Europe” by 2025.
“I want a European constitutional treaty that creates a federal Europe,” he said.
He said the treaty would be presented to EU member states for ratification, and those that reject it automatically should leave the bloc.
Schulz argued that only a reinforced EU could act as a bulwark to right-wing nationalists, who have made gains in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France and the Netherlands recently.
He said that with SPD in the coalition, Germany’s European policy would be less focused on austerity, and argued that the eurozone should have more investment, a common finance minister and budget.
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