German Elections

The Reluctant European

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The French and German elections this year are likely to shape the future of the European Union.

  • Facts


    • France will elect a new president in April and May, with Emmanuel Macron currently leading the polls.
    • After state elections in May, Germany will vote for a new national parliament in September.
    • Mr. Schulz is the Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, and previously served as the president of the European Parliament.
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EU Parliament Session in Strasbourg
Martin Schulz. Too defensive over Europe? Source: DPA/Picture Alliance

Martin Schulz appears to have everything on track. Currently, he is looking toward a likely victory in May for his Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the regional elections of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Shortly thereafter, in June, Mr. Schulz will unveil his party’s platform for this fall’s federal elections. Taxes, pensions and education are all on the agenda.

Yet there’s one issue where the Social Democrat candidate for chancellor is noticeably vague: Europe.

This is somewhat surprising – and not just because Mr. Schulz was a member of the European Parliament for 20 years and its president for five. In these turbulent times, the European Union has regained some of its popular appeal as a bulwark against the nationalism that threatens both here and in the US.

In France, Emmanuel Macron, the former finance minister vying to become president this year, has climbed in the opinion polls, not despite his support for the EU, but because of it.

When Mr. Schulz praises Europe’s open borders and freedoms he gets standing ovations. But he is reluctant to pin down a vision for the 28-nation bloc. He says little on further financial aid for Greece, the future of the common currency, or Turkey’s slide toward authoritarianism.

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