* German lawmaker has pushed for bigger role for EU
* Two-thirds of valid votes go to Social Democrat Schulz
* Schulz eyes tax reform, combating financial speculation
(Adds Schulz comments, background)
By John O'Donnell
BRUSSELS, July 1 The European Parliament on
Tuesday chose Martin Schulz as its president for another two and
half years, backing a combative social democrat who has fought
for more power for the EU legislature.
The extension of the German lawmaker's term follows the
parliament's success in getting its candidate, Jean-Claude
Juncker, nominated as European Commission President and shows
lawmakers' determination to have a greater say in Europe.
"Today, no-one can get around the EU Parliament," said
Schulz, a former bookstore manager from a small town near the
Of 612 valid votes cast in the parliament's seat in
Strasbourg, 409 were for Schulz.
He told reporters he would focus on tackling issues
including tax reform and financial market speculation. The new
legislature will also have to ratify an ambitious free-trade
deal between the European Union and the United States if
negotiations between Brussels and Washington are successful.
Schulz said that the parliament's success in introducing a
system of lead candidates from European political groups for EU
elections in May marked a leap forward. Those changes resulted
in Juncker's appointment as Commission president, despite the
opposition of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"The process is a major strengthening of the European
Parliament," he said. "This is a process which will cause major
changes in Europe."
The European Parliament's gain in authority comes at the
expense of individual EU countries, which in the past had a free
hand to set the course of legislation or decide policy in areas
such as trade. That has changed since EU lawmakers gained more
authority to influence legislation under reforms that came into
effect in late 2009.
The son of a German policeman, Schulz - who former Italian
prime minister Silvio Berlusconi once compared with a Nazi
concentration camp guard - has been credited with cementing the
European Parliament's new status.
Often deliberately over-staying his welcome at summit
meetings with European Union leaders and credited with
heightening the profile of recent European elections in Germany,
Schulz now faces a challenge from protest parties that won seats
in the parliament in the May vote.
Across the continent, parties of the far right and far left
more than doubled their representation, buoyed by resentment
with Brussels over immigration and record unemployment.
While the centre-right and centre-left will still control
more than half the 751 seats in the EU legislature, they will
face constant heckling from anti-EU lawmakers.
Speaking just before Schulz's reelection, European Council
President Herman van Rompuy, who chairs the meetings of EU
leaders, highlighted the challenge ahead.
"The eurosceptic parties have never been as strong as
today," Van Rompuy told an event in Brussels.
(Reporting by John O'Donnell; Editing by Robin Emmott, Larry