I believe Martin Schulz represents the best path forward for Germany and the European Union, and as such, I'm supporting him in the upcoming election for the German chancellorship.
From 2012 until January of this year, Schulz served as President of the European Parliament, representing the interests of the body at meetings of the European Council and signing off on all EU budgets. As a Member of the European Parliament for over 20 years, Schulz has gained a reputation as one of the staunchest europhiles on the continent, saying in November 2016 that European unification is "…civilization's greatest achievement over the past century." The previous July, in the week following the United Kingdom's referendum on withdrawing from the EU, Schulz and his longtime friend Sigmar Gabriel, himself Schulz's predecessor as head of the German Social Democrats, released a 10-point plan detailing ways in which to solidify the EU post-Brexit, including calls for further federalization and reductions in de facto trade barriers between European countries. During the press conference for the release of this plan, Schulz made mention of the EU's role in combatting "demons of the 20th century", highlighting the overall reduction in active racist and anti-semitic movements in Europe since the Union's founding.
Schulz has been a member of the SPD, Germany's oldest political party, since age 19. Representing the party in the European Parliament, he served on the Civil Liberties Committee and Subcommittee on Human Rights. In 2004, as leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Parliament, Schulz introduced a motion to block approval for the incoming European Commission, headed by former Prime Minister of Portugal José Manuel Barroso, because of the proposed appointment of Italian MEP Rocco Buttiglione, who had spoken very publicly about his homophobic views. This motion won the support of a large majority of members from both the centre-left and centre-right wings of parliament, resulting in Buttiglione's nomination being rescinded. In 2010, Schulz was heckled while giving a speech by British UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, who called Schulz a fascist after repeatedly shouting old Nazi propaganda lines in protest. Bloom was later ejected from the floor of the chamber because of the incident.
[A brief note on Godfrey Bloom and the ideological leanings which produce a fascist: the morally abominable quote "No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age" can be attributed to him.]
As current leader of the SPD, Schulz has been critical of Chancellor Merkel's political flip-flopping, claiming she tries tries to appeal to both her Union base with mild social conservatism and the more moderate members of his own party with her refugee policies. On the policy front, Schulz has remained committed to ensuring Germany helps incoming refugees and asylum seekers, but has also criticized other European countries, like Hungary and Poland, for not carrying their weight on the matter, leaving countries like Germany, France, Italy, and Sweden to carry much of the load.
Schultz has recently voiced his support for reimplementing certain welfare provisions which were cut by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in a sweeping reform package called Agenda 2010. In an interview this February, Schulz invoked the Bible on the matter, saying "In the Old Testament, Solomon preaches that 'to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.'", arguing that while the cuts were necessary in 2003 to spur growth, they simply aren't now; he supports a small increase in the German minimum wage, as well as stronger regulatory power to combat the ignorance of wage laws, and increasing the tax rate on those with the highest incomes from the current 42% to 50% or more. On the issue of income and labour, however, Schulz does not support a Universal Basic Income, a model under which every citizen would receive an unconditional sum of money from the government on a regular basis, and one often championed by social democrats. Schulz believes that means testing for welfare and unemployment benefits remains crucial, as a UBI would essentially waste taxpayer euros on those who don't need it. In addition, he believes that "…dignified work is a value in itself…", and that welfare should not act as a regular supplement for wage income.
In late 2013, Schulz made mention in a Council speech of Europe still relying heavily on the United States for military resources, noting that most European countries would be unable to carry out a proper military operation without physical US support. Schulz went on to call directly for the creation of a European army and air force, a move which would earne scorn from both then British Prime Minister David Cameron and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen; "If we wish to defend our values and interests, if we wish to maintain the security of our citizens, then a majority of MEPs consider that we need a headquarters for civil and military missions in Brussels and deployable troops." was in part his plea to the Council. Schulz has expressed support for the State of Israel, and has spoken passionately about the "horror" of anti-semitism in contemporary society. However, he has not shied away from criticism of the country and its policies toward the Palestinian Territories, calling the ongoing occupation of the West Bank "illegal" in a 2014 speech to the Knesset, in which he also made note of a question he'd received from a young man while in the West Bank – "How can it be that Israelis are allowed to use 70 litres [of water] per day and Palestinians only 17?", a remark which caused several far right Israeli MK's to leave the chamber.
When properly boiled down, the upcoming German election isn't plagued by the same urgency of this past year's elections in the United States, The Netherlands, France, or the United Kingdom; the nation's resident nationalist/populist party, AfD, has dropped significantly in the polls over the past couple of months, now polling in line with Die Linke. On this note, I'd like to mention something: I don't think the SPD will be able to form a government, coalition-based or otherwise; I don't believe Martin Schulz will be the next German Chancellor. But whereas the thought of Trump defeating Clinton or Le Pen besting Macron irked me, rightfully so, Schulz' primary opponent in the election, Angela Merkel, doesn't represent the same sort of threat. Merkel, Germany's first ever 'Bundeskanlzerin', that is, female chancellor, has already served three terms in office, and despite the relative social conservatism demonstrated by herself and her party, she remains a personal favourite world leader of mine. In brief, I don't see Merkel or the CDU-CSU as being any kind of threat to Germany or the EU. That being said, I still believe the Social Democrat platform contains the best possible variation of policies, balancing the interests and needs of German workers, businesses, and those abroad desperately seeking to be amongst both, and that Martin Schulz is the leader the European Union needs at the helm of its largest economy.