BERLIN – The leader of the German Social Democratic Party, Martin Schulz, renounced on Friday his purported appointment to head the foreign ministry and said he would not enter the new Grand Coalition cabinet headed by the Christian Democratic Union.
Schulz said in a statement he would not become foreign minister, in a bid to quell intra-party tensions that erupted after he had announced his intention of occupying the post following a successful coalition deal between his party the SPD and the CDU’s Angela Merkel, who is set to serve her fourth consecutive term in office.
“I hereby declare my renouncement to entering the federal government and hope, at the same time, that this will put the personnel debates within the SPD to an end,” read the statement.
“We all take part in politics for the people in this country. That also means that my personal ambitions must take a back seat to the party’s interests,” it added.
Schulz’s decision came after a significant number of prominent SPD members heavily criticized his inconsistency, as Schulz had previously said he would under no circumstance join Merkel’s cabinet before doing a U-turn by signaling his wish to become Germany’s top diplomat.
The current acting foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel – who preceded Schulz as SPD leader –, slammed his successor on Friday in an interview before news of the latter’s decision broke out.
“It’s regrettable to see how disrespectful the interaction among us in the SPD has become, and how little value is placed on promises,” Gabriel told the Funke media group, referring to the fact that Schulz had previously given him his word that Gabriel would be able to keep control of the foreign affairs ministry.
The internal criticism towards Schulz came at a time when the SPD desperately needs the approval of its base – numbering 463,000 voting members – to ratify the conditions in the final coalition agreement.
Schulz announced on Wednesday that he would step down as party leader once voting was completed on March 4.
If SPD members finally give their approval to the deal, the new cabinet is set to include six SPD ministers, including key portfolios such as foreign affairs, finance, justice, labor and the environment.