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2nd Ld Writethru: German SPD leader Schulz wants "United States of Europe" by 2025

Xinhua,December 08, 2017 Adjust font size:

BERLIN, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Martin Schulz, the party leader of the German Social Democrats (SPD), on Thursday called for the transformation of the European Union into a "United States of Europe" by 2025 with a common constitution.

"Europe is our life insurance," Schulz told an SPD party convention in Berlin.

Speaking before 600 delegates, Schulz has outlined a bold vision of European reform at the start of the three-day party conference of SPD.

He called for transforming the current European Union (EU) into the "United States of Europe" by 2025 and mechanisms to automatically exclude member states which failed to agree to a corresponding federal constitution.

"Let us finally muster the courage to advance the cause of Europe", Schulz urged.

"Our continent cannot afford another four years of German European policy a la Wolfgang Schaeuble", the former president of the European Parliament added.

According to Schulz, the SPD was tasked with proving itself as a political force which was capable of improving peoples' lives. Given the trans-national character of issues confronting policymakers, many of the necessary measures to achieve that objective could no longer be taken in the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) or Chancellery alone.

"This is why we must strengthen Europe. Because it is Europe that can establish rules in globalization", Schulz said as he seconded proposals by French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission for the creation of an EU Finance Minister.

"People, Europe is our life insurance", the SPD leader added. The unabashedly pro-European comments are likely to be welcomed in Paris, where President Macron is counting on German support to advance his EU reform agenda.

Schulz opened his speech by personally-apologizing for his party's "bitter defeat" in September's federal elections. Slumping to a voter share of 20.5 percent, the SPD had achieved its worst ever electoral result in post-war Germany. The SPD leader asked for forgiveness from all those had placed their hopes in the party, only for these to be dashed.

However, Schulz also pointed out that September's elections already marked the fourth consecutive time that the SPD had shed voter support. He consequently demanded an "unsparing" examination of the party's trajectory over the past 20 years and a comprehensive re-haul of its strategy.

"We must develop a vision which enthrals people, a grand design for the country to demonstrate what social democracy stands for in the 21st century," The SPD leader told his delegates.

Schulz conciliatory words were reflective of his desire to secure backing from the SPD base for another term at its helm later today (CET). While he could not turn back the clock, he now wanted to "make a contribution as party leader" to ensure that the SPD improved its performance in the future and promised to attract more members to the party.

In spite of Schulz' emotional appeal on Thursday, the subjects of his own fate within the party and EU reform are widely-anticipated to be overshadowed by heated internal debate over whether the SPD should join the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) in a renewed "grand coalition" under the leadership of veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).

Schulz had originally vowed to return with his party to the Bundestag's opposition benches but has since softened his stance in response to a dramatic intervention by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier following the collapse of "Jamaica" coalition negotiations.

While the SPD leadership already gave its seal of approval to exploratory talks over the formation of a new government with the CDU/CSU on Monday, it is still up to the party base to approve this recommendation at the ongoing Berlin conference.

Schulz praised the leadership resolution on Thursday as "leaving all options on the table and leaving all paths open." He voiced the opinion that the key question was not whether the SPD wanted to govern or not as a matter of principle, but what it could achieve in office.

Although the SPD had to "rise to its responsibility towards the next generation", Schulz gave his "guarantee" that there would be "no automatism" concerning how to move ahead. Some senior SPD members prefer lending their party's support to a minority government lead by CDU/CSU over the prospects of joining a coalition or re-elections.

The SPD youth organization has launched a "no grand-coalition" campaign, lending voice to fears that the party could become even further marginalized in German politics during another official term in the shadow of Merkel. This sentiment is shared by Manuela Schwesig, governor of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Malu Dreyer, governor of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Efforts to overcome such resistance will require a concerted effort by the party leadership surrounding Schulz and constitute a critical pre-condition to any realistic progress in European integration. Enditem