In a move that will outrage millions of conservative French voters, the head of the French Socialist party has ceded his spot in a debate with Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing eurosceptic Front National, to Martin Schulz, a German socialist politician who is president of the European Parliament.
A French national debate scheduled May 22 was meant to feature the top candidates for the European Parliament from each of the French parties. Now it may instead feature the German Schulz, candidate of the Socialist group in the parliament to become the next president of the European Commission, who was once described by the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as perfect to play the part of a concentration camp guard in a film about the war.
The move is akin to UKIP’s Nigel Farage offering to debate Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg again, with the latter sending Herman Van Rompuy, or Jose Manuel Barroso in his place.
Le Pen has mocked the decision, saying: “It is typical that the Socialist Party sends a German to discuss the future of France.”
According to a report in European Voice, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, first secretary of the Parti Socialiste, said he would give his party’s spot in the debate to Schulz in order to force Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, to debate the German euro-politician.
The Socialist Party has complained that the debate in France has been entirely focused on national issues, which has given an edge to Le Pen. The Socialists already requested that Le Pen debate Schulz in early April, believing that she would embarrass herself with a lack of knowledge of European Union issues. However Le Pen refused to take part in that debate, according to European Voice.
The Front National has said Le Pen would agree to participate in the May 22 debate if France2, the television broadcaster presenting the debate, and Schulz, who speaks fluent French, agree to it.