EU Parliament chief Schulz to enter German politics

Germany’s Martin Schulz said on Thursday he would step down as head of the European Parliament and return to national politics, where analysts say he could emerge as a rival to Angela Merkel.

The outspoken former bookseller from Aachen will quit after four years in office, during which he became one of the European Union’s most high-profile politicians and gave its assembly sorely-needed visibility.

The bearded 60-year-old did not say if he would run for chancellor against Merkel, although he is widely expected to slot into a prime position for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is currently in coalition with her.

“I will not run as president of the European parliament for a third term next year, I will run for the German Bundestag as the head of the list of my party, the SPD, in North Rhine-Westphalia,” an emotional Schulz told reporters in Brussels.

“It was not an easy decision, as it is an honour to be the president of the European parliament.”

Schulz is tipped in Berlin as a possible replacement to Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who now leads the party but is behind Schulz in latest polling.