The president of the European Parliament had used his final interview in the position to concede the institution is “treading water”, has not moved on from Brexit, and has little idea of how to deal with rising nationalism across the continent.
Martin Schulz, one of the leading figures in European politics for more than a decade, told the Europa newspaper group, “Some people in the apparatuses of Brussels are indeed far decoupled from the reality which confronts people on a day-to-day basis. Only taking notice of Brussels can make you believe that Brussels life is the reality of people in Europe.”
Mr. Schulz, who denied he is part of an out of touch “Brussels establishment”, was elected as an MEP in 1994 before becoming the leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) centre-left political group in the European parliament 10 years later. In 2014, he was voted in as president of the parliament.
After leaving the European Union (EU), Mr. Schulz is expected to become Germany’s foreign minister.
Explaining how the institution had changed, he said French and German presidents of the 1980s and 90s “travelled to Brussels with the attitude that a strong Europe is in the interest of our country.”
Yet today, “the [Viktor] Orbán generation says ‘we have to defend the interests of our country against Europe’ – as if they were being attacked by Brussels”.
The Social Democratic party politician said that if the EU could “[implement] everything that was possible”, including the euro. “A lot could be improved,” he added.
However, he was frustrated that democratic nations stood in his way. “The commission and the parliament would be on board, but it all falls down in the council, with the national governments. At the end of the day the union is only as strong as its member states allow it to be,” he said.
Mr. Schulz also denied that the EU’s massive eastwards expansion in 2004 was a mistake, but admitted: “We underestimated how the two halves of Europe had drifted apart. The cultural, scientific and political structures of the west cannot be adopted one to one.”