by Justin Huggler, The Telegraph:
The man who could be Germany’s vice-chancellor within weeks on Thursday called for the European Union to transform itself into a “United States of Europe”.
Martin Schulz, the leader of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), called for a new federal constitution for the EU by 2025.
Hours before his party voted to open talks on forming a new coalition with the beleaguered Angela Merkel, Mr Schulz made clear he would demand radical EU reform and far deeper integration than previously envisaged as his price for ending weeks of political crisis in Germany.
“I want a new constitutional treaty to establish the United States of Europe. A Europe that is no threat to its member states, but a beneficial addition,” he said in a speech to his party conference.
Under Mr Schulz’s proposals, Brussels would be given power over individual member states’ foreign and domestic policy, as well as taxes.
Countries who refuse to sign up to a new federal Europe should automatically lose their EU membership, he said.
A deal with Mr Schulz’s party is Mrs Merkel’s last chance to prevent new elections after coalition negotiations with smaller parties broke down last month.
Urging delegates to vote in favour of talks with Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Mr Schulz said he would make a “complete turnaround in Germany’s European policy” a central condition of any deal.
But Mrs Merkel lost no time in rejecting Mr Schulz’s proposals for a federal Europe, ruling them out before delegates had even finished voting.
“I believe the ability to act now is the priority, not setting long-term goals,” she said.
More cooperation between EU members was more important than drawing up new constitutions and taking powers from member states, she argued.
“We have to be economically strong, we need to work better together in the field of defence. We must pursue a common foreign policy, a common development policy, to be taken seriously as a continent or as a European Union.
“That’s why my goal for 2025 is better cooperation on defence and these other issues.”
The threat of new German elections receded after the SPD on Thursday voted in favour of “open-ended talks” with Mrs Merkel’s party.
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