EP president Martin Schulz develops dictatorial tendencies

17 November 2013

EP president Martin Schulz develops dictatorial tendencies

Schulz has been in the European Parliament since 1994: almost twenty years in the European bubble. That does something to you.

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong

Dennis de JongThings are getting steadily worse when it comes to the German president of the European Parliament, the social democrat Martin Schulz: he is president of, and for, the Europhile majority and ignores the minorities in the EP. The social democrats, including our own PvdA (Labour Party), want him to succeed Jose Barroso as president of the European Commission. Fine, but then they should admit that they are, in pushing this semi-dictator to the fore, thumbing their noses at democracy.

This week it was revealed that Schulz would be stopping us from demanding separate votes on single paragraphs from the text on the multi-annual budget. Such requests can lead to members being able to vote down sections of the proposal. Now all you can do is vote yea or nay to the entire budget package. Goodbye MEPs’ democratic rights. But it gets even worse: political groups, such as the United Left, to which the SP is affiliated, have called for an emergency sitting of all group chairs in order to discuss the issue with Schulz. He seems to have rejected this, too. He has that right, but to refuse such a discussion is hardly democratic.

This decision fits a pattern: Schulz has personally arranged it so that the important working group which, together with the European Commission, will evaluate the newly-established register of lobbyists, will consist entirely of members of his entourage, which is to say the EP Bureau. The members of the Bureau lack the necessary expertise to ensure that the register will be complete and up-to-date, which is why I proposed that each political group add an expert to the working party. Schulz isn’t against this, but wants these experts to be substitute members, which means that they can attend all meetings but vote only when the representative of their group is absent. He also knows, however, that members of the Bureau cannot be replaced by substitute members, itself a puzzle as this is an exception to how the EP usually works. So he’s ensured that in practice no-one will take this role. Long live democracy, but not really.

At every meeting of the European Council, the body that brings together the heads of government of the twenty-eight member states, Schulz has the right to make, at the beginning of the meeting, a speech on behalf of the European Parliament. I have yet to hear him say anything that accords with the SP’s views. No cuts in the European budget; more powers for the European Union to enable it to address the crisis, including control over member states’ social policy: these are all matters which Schulz raises at Council and with which perhaps his own social democratic group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (PASD), could agree. Democracy, however, also means respect for minority opinions, especially if these also prevail amongst broad layers of the population. It is beneath Schulz’ dignity to suggest that he should admit that there are also criticisms of the European project and that many people in Europe want to put the brakes on or are even in favour of reducing Brussels’ power.

During plenary sessions too Schulz governs proceedings like a despot, forcing members to listen to speeches by all sorts of dignitaries by holding them in the middle of votes when everyone is already there and can’t leave, as they don’t know when the voting will resume. Worse still, he calls on us time and time again to stand up whenever his beloved European anthem is played to honour these dignitaries and of course, himself.

Schulz has been in the European Parliament since 1994, almost twenty years in the European bubble. That does something to you. No affinity any longer with the things that matter to the people, but also addicted to the constant the constant adulation of the people around you. As president of the PASD Schulz already enjoyed a great deal of influence, and was surrounded by people who found him wonderful. As president of the EP he is protected entirely from his critics by hangers on and yes-men. And should such a man go on to head the European Commission? Does the PvdA really know what it’s saying should it nominate this man? Someone who is so disengaged from reality and who cares not a jot for democracy? Now the European Commission is itself of course no kind of democratic organ, but handing it a semi-dictatorial president is simply idiotic. Happily this is nothing but a piece of vaudeville: the political groups in the Parliament have no say in the nomination of the president of the Commission, a right reserved to the member states. True, member state governments have to take the results of the European elections into account, but nowhere is it stated that they must adopt the candidate from the biggest political group. So even if the social democrats were to become the biggest, this would not by any means automatically mean that Schulz would become president of the Commission. A comforting thought.

This opinion piece first appeared, in the original Dutch, on the website Joop.nl

You are here