Many readers will welcome the substance of Tony Barber’s Financial Times’ article (28th August: ‘Schulz taps pacifist tradition by playing the Trump card’) which prompted a search for background information.
In November 2016, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, announced that he would not run for a third term in January 2017 and was returning to German politics.
With EU Commission President Barroso (centre) and EU Council President Herman van Rompuy (left), he collected the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the European Union, honouring “over six decades [having] contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.
Eliminating clearly partisan phrases in Barber’s patronising commentary, we note that he reports, as the Germany’s election campaign gets under way, that Schulz, the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate for chancellor, has vowed to secure the removal of US nuclear weapons from German soil.
Barber reminds us that this is in the SDP tradition: fifteen years ago, Gerhard Schröder, SPD chancellor, at one election rally after another, insisted that Germany would have nothing to do with the George W Bush administration’s plans to invade Iraq, adding that ‘arguably’ history vindicated him.
He then refers to Schulz ‘playing the Trump card’ before election day on September 24th, noting that 92% of Germans have expressed disapproval of US President Donald Trump and only 5% approved of him. And according to the same poll, 21% of Germans said the US was a trustworthy partner, and 74% regarded the US as untrustworthy.
The SPD is also campaigning on a pledge not to raise defence spending to 2% of gross domestic product, the target to which all Nato states committed themselves in 2014 – but Angela Merkel pledges to reach this target. Surveys reveal lukewarm support for higher military expenditure and for German participation in combat missions abroad. In a Pew Research Center poll released in May, Germans were the nation least supportive of using armed force to defend a Nato ally, if it found itself in a serious military conflict with Russia.
Barber refers to Germany’s leading role in organising a financial rescue for Greece, striking a deal with Turkey to control refugee flows into Europe and negotiating with Russia over the Ukraine conflict but does not add that Schulz – when president of European Parliament – was described as being ‘extremely adept at delicate diplomatic missions’. He visited the Turkish President following the 2016 coup attempt and met Iranian President Hassan Rohani in November 2015 to “intensify dialogue” between the EU and Iran a few months after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
So though polls give Schulz no chance of winning, many readers will salute his desire to move nuclear weapons from Germany, to distance the country from American influence and to restrict defence spending, coupled with the SFP’s traditional emphasis on social justice, We hope for an unexpected result – there are precedents . . .