Martin Schulz to step down as Social Democrat leader in Germany

Former European Parliament president says he is aiming for foreign ministry post

Wednesday 07 February 2018 18:55 GMT
Martin Schulz
Martin Schulz (Reuters)

Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), has said he will step down as leader following the party's coalition agreement with Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Mr Schulz indicated he wanted to be the country's foreign minister if the SPD's members vote to approve the coalition deal.

Ms Merkel's conservative CDU, its Bavaria-only sister the Christian Social Union, and the SPD shook hands on a 177-page deal that leads off with the promise of "a new awakening for Europe" after a gruelling 24 hours of negotiations.

Social Democrat leaders now have one last major hurdle to overcome - winning their sceptical members' approval over the deal.

Mr Schulz said that pending members' approval he would "fight for the renewal" of the European Union as foreign minister.

The coalition accord will be put to a ballot of the Social Democrats' 460,000 members, a process that will take a few weeks.

Germany's highest court said on Wednesday it had dismissed a series of complaints against the ballot.

Many Social Democrats are sceptical after the party's disastrous election result, which followed four years of serving as the junior partner to Mrs Merkel's conservatives in a so-called "grand coalition". The party's youth wing vehemently opposes a repeat of that alliance.

If Social Democrat members say no, the new coalition government cannot be formed. That would leave only an unprecedented minority government under Mrs Merkel or a new election as the remaining options.

Germany has already broken its post-Second World War record for the longest time taken between its latest election on September 24 and the swearing-in of a new government. That is still at least several weeks away.

Mrs Merkel currently leads a caretaker government, which is not in a position to launch major initiatives or play any significant role in the debate on the European Union's future, led so far by French president Emmanuel Macron.

Additional reporting by agencies

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