Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, is a busy man these days and not surprisingly so, since his self-proclaimed goal is to save the European project. He squeezed us in during a very packed day at the Strasbourg Parliament amidst meeting heads of state and governments and mounting tension over the EU-Turkey accord on refugees. No wonder he looked a little downcast when he arrived. However any sign of weariness evaporated as soon as we got stuck into to the interview and his favourite subject – Europe.
He was unforgiving when it came to dealing with Turkey stating “Mutual respect, I want to be very clear about that, means that we respect Turkey but also that Turkey must respect our rules.” However, and maybe surprisingly for some, Schulz went out of his way to praise how the country was treating refugees – far better than some European countries he added: ‘I visited several refugee camps in Turkey, and frankly I wish that in some of our own EU member states refugees could be treated as they are in Turkey.’
Martin Schulz promised to be frank in our interview and stuck to his word. He expressed real concern over the rise of eurosceptism in Europe. He warned that if the ‘silent majority’ did not start to act together it would only be a matter of time before eurosceptics would ‘get their way and govern’.
On Brexit he cast aside any rhetoric and shared how concerned he was over this upcoming vote : ‘I hope it won’t happen, but it’s not out of the question. But a Brexit would be a disaster both for the European Union and for Britain.’
Where he was coy was about his own future and rumours over whether he will stand in elections next year in Germany for the Chancellorship –‘Who can predict anything? I belong here. I’ve worked my entire political life in European politics.’
The full interview airs as of Thursday night 19h40 CET and is available online.