Yesterday morning, the Süddeutsche Zeitung recounted the career of Martin Schulz; a career that reads like the American Dream in a European setting. From an unemployed alcoholic, to a mayor, to the president of the European Parliament - and now, maybe, the future Chancellor of Germany.
It was written in black and white: Schulz, who has led the European Parliament since 2012, will not be seeking a third term. According to the same newspaper, the member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) has his sights set on a seat in the Bundestag [the lower house of the German parliament, Ed.] next year. Rumours are flying that he would like to take the place of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current foreign minister, but he surely won't stop there. The satirical late-night programme heute-show is already joking about it on Twitter, saying: "Martin Schulz wants to enter the Bundestag. The AfD is fuming already: a fugitve Belgian as chancellor?"
Seriously? This is a huge disappointment. What seems like a step up on the career ladder is, from a European standpoint, a huge step backwards. Despite what many might say and think, Martin Schulz was one of the few people who really embodied the best of European politics. This was a man who kept his cool in the face of insults from Silvio Berlusconi (who offered him a role as a kapo in an Italian film about concentration camps); who has always fought for Europe; who stood up against Hungarian leader Orbán; who expelled a an MP belonging to the Greek party Golden Dawn from the chamber after he described Turks as "animals"; who has always fought for the European Parliament's right to scrutiny - all of this in an attempt to lead the unweildly behemoth that is Europe through crisis after endemic crisis. Before him, the European Parliament had never felt so human. He arrived when the financial crisis in Europe seemed unsolvable. And now he's gone.
An infamous exchange from 2010, as MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit tells Schulz: "Shut up!"
Martin, we hardly knew ye
Martin Schulz could not have picked a worse time to leave Europe. Today, the former bookseller seems set on taking the highest office in Germany - which is especially depressing in 2016, the Annus Horribilis. Brexit, the TTIP scandal and the refugee crisis have left the European Union bitterly divided. Why now, as the European Dream turns into a nightmare and populist voices grow louder and louder on all sides? Why is Schulz leaving Europe now, when Europe needs him more than ever?
As rumours spread, Schulz always maintained that he wouldn't turn his back on Europe in favour of a post at the national level. Yesterday, he said that being president of the European parliament was a great honour, not to be taken lightly. Has Martin Schulz finally been overpowered by the "chained giant" of Europe?
One could argue that Schulz can do more for Europe right now as chancellor of Germany. But in the future we may see Schulz's joining of the German poltical élite not as a new chapter of the European Dream, but the beginning of the end.