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European Union

EU's Schulz endorsed by Germany's SPD

Germany's center-left Social Democrats have confirmed the European Parliament's current president Martin Schulz as their top German candidate for the 28-nation bloc's election in May. He's also bidding for higher office.

Senior German euro parliamentarian Martin Schulz got 97.3 percent backing at a special Social Democratic (SPD) party conference in Berlin on Sunday.

Schulz, who became the European Parliament's president in 2012, is also tipped to be endorsed in early March by the second-largest bloc of Socialists and Democrats in the Strasbourg-based assembly as their candidate for the European Commission's top job.

Incumbent commission president, Portugal's Jose Manuel Barroso, ends his term in November, with Europe's conservative and liberal blocs also lining up to nominate their candidates.

Among them are Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, Belgian ex-premier Guy Verhofstadt and Finland's Olli Rehn.

Resist 'nationalist tendencies'

Schulz warned SPD delegates on Sunday that Europe must resist tendencies to re-nationalize one century after the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

"I want a Europe that in 2014 does not repeat the mistakes of 1914," Schulz said, adding that hatred, xenophobia and racism had "no place" in Europe and that Europe's main task was to create jobs for its unemployed youth.

He also decried the monetary policies of the European Central Bank (ECB). "It cannot be acceptable that the [commercial] banks get money from the ECB at an interest rate of 0.25 percent and then not invest that money in the real economy," Schulz said. "If I become EU Commission president then I will ask the ECB head to stop this practice!"

SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the vice-chancellor in Germany's new broad coalition government with Merkel's conservatives, said Europe's center-left saw Schulz's bid for commission head as a "historic chance."

Gabriel said the main thing was not to jeopardize European unification, which he described as the "greatest civilization project of the 20th century." Both Schulz and Gabriel called for EU law amendments to lessen bureaucracy.

It was high time that the European Parliament "chose a European head of government and not the national leaders in backrooms," Gabriel said. He added that the well-being of Europe was of key importance if Germany were to prosper. "If people lose their jobs in Italy and France, they are not going to be able to buy German cars and machinery."

McAllister likely conservative choice

Chancellor Merkel's conservatives will picked their top German candidate for the May election at a meeting in Erfurt on February 7-8.

Their likely choice is David McAllister, a half-Scot and the former premier of Germany's northern state of Lower Saxony, who narrowly lost to the SPD last year.

ipj,rc/ccp (AFP, Reuters, dpa. AP)

DW.DE