Merkel rival vows to fight German election like France's Macron

 Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz addresses a news conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 15, 2017.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz addresses a news conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 15, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrat (SPD) rival said on Saturday (May 20) he would model his campaign for the Sept 24 federal election on that of Emmanuel Macron, an outsider who was voted in as French President two weeks ago.

Martin Schulz, trying to regain momentum after a shock election loss in Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia last week, the SPD's third defeat this year, said Macron's win showed a pro-European campaign could work. "I will do exactly the same. We need a strong impulse for Europe that also stirs up a new enthusiasm for Europe," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

In stark contrast to his opponent in the second round of the presidential election, French nationalist Marine Le Pen, Macron championed Europe.

Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament who was chosen to lead the struggling SPD in January, reiterated support for Macron's idea of a common euro group budget to help jointly tackle growth in the currency union and create jobs.

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But he explicitly ruled out eurobonds, or mutualised debt, anathema to many Germans who are fear they will end up bankrolling struggling states who resist reforms. "It's a debate from yesterday that's over," Schulz said, adding that EU treaties did not allow for common debt liability.

"Rather than having phantom debates about debt mutualisation, I think it is much more important to talk about how we push forward with growth and investment in Europe." Macron and conservative Merkel agreed in talks on Monday to draw up a roadmap to deep EU integration.

Schulz reinvigorated his party for a few weeks, lifting its ratings by some 10 percentage points but have slipped back and the SPD trails the conservatives by 8-10 points in most polls.