EU Parliament President 'Trump Is a Problem for the Whole World'

With Europe falling ever-deeper into crisis, European Parliament President Martin Schulz is warning of the further advance of right-wing populism. In an interview, he also says he fears the possibility of a President Trump.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz
Bernd Bostelmann/ DER SPIEGEL

European Parliament President Martin Schulz

Interview Conducted by , and

On Friday, leaders European Union member states will meet for their next informal meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia -- the second one without Britain. Also in attendance will be Martin Schulz, the German president of the European Parliament. Schulz is very concerned about the current state of the EU. "We're at a historical juncture: A growing number of people are declaring what has been achieved over the past decades in Europe to be wrong," the politician, a member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) told SPIEGEL ONLINE in an interview.

Schulz warns of the demons of Europe's past and says that the EU must now fight to keep them at bay. "I expect from the community of 27 a clear signal that we will stick together despite the problems and contentious issues," he says. "Just how important this cohesion is will become clear as soon as Brexit negotiations begin."

Schulz also expressed his fears of a possible US President Donald Trump. "Then you will have an obviously irresponsible man sitting in a position that requires the utmost sense of responsibility," he says. "Trump is not just a problem for the EU, but for the whole world."

Continue reading for the complete interview.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Schulz, during our last interview at the beginning of the year, you said that things were going badly in Europe. What would your diagnosis be today?

Schulz: It has gotten even worse -- above all because of the Brexit decision. With Britain, Europe's second largest economy, a member of the G-7 and the UN Security Council, wants to leave the EU. That weakens us and it weakens Britain.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That's not the EU's only problem.

Schulz: We continue to have major economic disparities in the Union, youth unemployment is far too high, there is only slow growth and necessary reforms have not been initiated. Then there is the renationalization strategy being pursued by the governments of Poland and Hungary. All of this threatens the future of the community. I am very concerned.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You're not known for being a scaremonger.

Schulz: We're at a historical juncture: A growing number of people are declaring what has been achieved over the past decades in Europe to be wrong. They want to return to the nation-state. Sometimes there is even a blood and soil rhetoric that for me is starkly reminiscent of the interwar years of the past century, whose demons we are still all too familiar with. We brought these demons under control through European structures, but if we destroy those structures, the demons will return. We cannot allow this to happen. Just how important this cohesion is will become clear as soon as Brexit negotiations begin. As soon as the British have determined their strategy for the negotiations with the EU, we will be confronted with a united British position.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are your expectations for the summit in Bratislava?

Schulz: I expect a clear signal from the community of 27 that we will stick together despite the problems and contentious issues. Given the current situation, that alone would already be a success. It cannot be met by an inconsistent EU, because there are surely people in London who would love to play us off against each other. That would be disastrous for the EU.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could the British be provided with access to the EU internal market without guaranteeing the right to the free movement of EU citizens?

Schulz: Certainly not. That is a red line for us in the European Parliament that is non-negotiable.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The British still haven't invoked the official exit clause under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. When should this be filed by?

Schulz: The government in London apparently had no plan ready for an exit scenario -- it was taken by surprise. That's why I can understand that they need a little time to get themselves sorted. But I hope that the petition is submitted by the end of the year. Once it is, the two years of negotiations can begin. The people, but also the economy, the companies, need to be able to plan.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In current discussions pertaining to the future of the EU, one issue is that of a possible joint European army. What are your thoughts on the issue?

Schulz: We surely need increased cooperation on both internal and foreign security. But a joint European army is a very far-reaching proposal and it would be difficult to implement. Such initiatives are nevertheless needed. Political leaders need to formulate long-term EU goals that show: Yes, we want to stay together.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Yet the forces pulling Europe apart are powerful. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn recently called for Hungary to be kicked out of the EU. Is he right?

Schulz: I have no regard for such formulations. Right now we need to keep this shop together and not launch new provocations, day in, day out. Still, I am also critical of the fact that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is pulling out of everything -- the joint approach to the refugee issue, for example. He cannot disparage his colleagues in the EU either -- that's not how we treat each other. We require solidarity: in refugee policies, just as in the financial architecture of the structural funds from which countries like Hungary have strongly profited from for years.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does that mean that you want to exert financial pressure on countries like Hungary?

Schulz: You can't always be demanding solidarity from others and then refuse to show it yourself. The process of EU budget revisions will commence soon and there will also surely be a debate in parliament over whether the countries that have shown solidarity in the refugee crisis should be provided with greater financial support.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It's not only in Europe that right-wing populists like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party are on the rise. In the United States, a right-wing populist could even become president. What would it mean for the EU if Donald Trump landed in the White House?

Schulz: Trump is not just a problem for the EU, but for the whole world. When a man ends up in the White House who boasts about not having a clue and who says that specialist knowledge is elite nonsense, then a critical point has been reached. Then you will have an obviously irresponsible man sitting in a position that requires the utmost degree of responsibility. My worry is that he may inspire copycats, also in Europe. That's why I hope Hillary Clinton wins.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Those are astoundingly clear words from a leading European politician. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shied away from being so unambiguous.

Schulz: I say what I think about Trump.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will you do if Trump becomes president and then visits the EU?

Schulz: Then we will receive him just as we have every other US president.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your own future is wide open. You would like to continue in your role as president of the European Parliament, but according to EU tradition it would now be the turn of a member of the conservative family of parties. Are you counting on help from Chancellor Merkel, who clearly seems to appreciate you?

Schulz: I take note of the fact that there are a lot of people who appreciate what I do as parliament president, not just within my Social Democratic party group, but also among the conservatives. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and many others, incidentally, would like to see me carry on. My term runs until Jan. 17, and I will continue to focus on the problems that need to be solved until then.

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Inglenda2 09/15/2016
1. Not Brexit, not Trump, EU policies are the risk!
What is more dangerous, a democratically elected nationalist, as American president, or an undemocratic European Commission, under the influence of lobbyists, together with a parliament, which does not have the courage to stop the insane policies being produced in Brussels? For the European Parliament President Martin Schulz to warn, of a further advance of right-wing populism, is a poor witticism. It is he and the European Commission together with a number of inept national leaders, comparable to Mrs. Merkel, who have created an atmosphere which leads to these wretched radical lines of thought. With Europe falling ever-deeper into crisis, it is of no use to point fingers towards the possibility of a future President Trump.*The dangers Europe faces are self made and even though these were pointed out, long before the Brexit became a probable actuality, the powers that be, chose to continue the way to financial and social chaos, now to be found within a failing EU. When will they ever learn?
idbeckett 09/15/2016
2. It's all in a word
You ask "Could the British be provided with access to the EU internal market without guaranteeing the right to the free movement of EU citizens?" The answer is patently yes. A great many countries have access to the single market (USA and China for example) without paying any contributions or permitting free movement. What you are really asking is can the British be members of the single market without free movement. Sounds pedantic but is actually critical. Regardless of the result of the negotiations unless the EU launches an economic embargo on the UK then trade will continue, the question really about the levels of tariffs and standards. 09/15/2016
3. Martin Schulz on Donald Trump
He has the right to speak, but it may not be wise for him to do so, because he represent the EU and Germany. If Mr. Trump were to be the next US President then Mr. Schulz will need to interact in his official capacity. Considering the words chosen, would it not be better for Mr. Schulz to resign, go into Pension, etc. Brussels wants to export him, Germany not necessarily embraces him for high office. And I don't recall any of his special achievements ... or?? Karl
sam_imam-_eli 09/15/2016
4. Trump only a problem to burecrats
Trump is only a problem for burecrats who want to force their misguided ideologies on others.
macca51 09/16/2016
5. Is he serious?
This man is President of the EU Parliament? Good God no wonder the EU is in trouble. Is there, apart from Jean CLaude Juncker, an individual more out of touch with reality? He doesn't seem to understand what lies at the heart of Brexit and why parties like the French National Front and the Alternative for Deutschland are on the sharp rise. Well Herr Schulz here is a clue for you. To paraphrase James Carville "It's refugees and immigration, stupid" Oh, and of course, Muslims. Most people surveyed don't want them in their country. But the dolts running the EU are hell-bent on forcing the EU nations to accept large numbers of them. Quite often the EU resorts to blackmail as Schulz makes clear when referring to Hungary. Then, of course, there is the state of the economies of many of the EU nations after decades of EU control. The Greek disaster is obvious, but what about France and Spain, Italy and Portugal to name a few. Try and tell young people in those countries what a great job the EU is doing. Here's some more news for you Herr Schulz. People don't seem to like the idea of just being lumped into one amorphous mass known as Europe. They don't wish to be part of some European Federation, run nominally from Brussels but de facto controlled by Berlin. I would suggest that Italians are fond of their nation state Italy, just as Germans like Germany and the French like France. One last thing Schulz if you really believe that it makes one iota of difference who is the President of America, Trump or Clinton, not only are you out of touch with European realities you are simply out of touch with reality. Anyhow, start looking for another job, the days of the EU are most definitely numbered.
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