Federal Election

Schulz Shadowboxes Merkel

SPD-Kanzlerkandidat Schulz präsentiert Zukunftsplan
Has Martin Schulz given up hope of becoming chancellor? Source: DPA

Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic leader challenging Angela Merkel for the chancellorship, is putting out all stops to revive his ailing campaign.

On Sunday he outlined a more refined set of policies, designed by economist Henrik Enderlein and state economy secretary Matthias Machnig which focus on areas where the CDU haven’t provided much substance. It calls for massive public sector investment starting in the next legislative period, particularly in high-speed fiber-optic Internet connections, the energy transition, research and development and education.

He called for greater protection for German workers against the effects of globalization, suggesting government, business and labor unions work together to help protect against unfair competition.

Germany “will only prevail in the competition with the United States and China if all the important basic technologies are researched, developed and applied in Germany and Europe,” Mr. Schulz said. “We are being challenged by countries in which the state owns or at least massively supports companies.”

He also took a shot at Germany’s “hodgepodge of education policies” and suggested a “national education alliance” where universities, schools, the federal, state and local governments, and businesses could cooperate.

Clemens Fuest, president of the prestigious Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research has criticized Mr. Schulz’s policies as a “shotgun approach to increasing public investment.”

“We shouldn’t expect too much investment,” Mr. Fuest told Handelsblatt. “In many cases, we have already reached the point where the money can no longer be spent, because there is a lack of reasonable projects.”

He said doing away with educational federalism would make testing new concepts more difficult and called Mr. Schulz’s suggestion for a fiber-optic network a “mess”.

“It would be a huge waste,” explained the economist. “Instead, we should think about whether expanding the fiber-optic network is truly worthwhile. Besides, we can’t be sure that the technology won’t be outdated in a few years.”

There are only 10 weeks left until September’s federal election, and it is not clear if these promises will be enough to change public opinion. The SPD has now fallen far behind Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the polls, after a brilliant start where Mr. Schulz’s nomination as chairman and chancellery brought a spike in support that analysts termed the “Schulz Effect“.

Mr. Schulz has been doing his best to attack Ms. Merkel, but the chancellor is keeping a low profile. Her strategy of avoiding debate has prevented the face-off that Mr. Schulz is longing for.


 Klaus Stratmann covers energy policy and politics for Handelsblatt in Berlin. To contact the author: stratmann@handelsblatt.com

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