European democracy is in "great danger" from a rising tide of "ultra-nationalism" across the continent, Martin Schulz said on Wednesday (14 December). The German politician issued the warning as he chaired his final full plenary session as the president of the European Parliament.
"Everywhere on our continent, dividers and ultranationalists are on the rise again," he said.
"They incite people to turn against each other and preach the abandonment of the liberal, social and ecological model of society in Europe. Through this they endanger one of the greatest achievements of civilization that our continent has ever seen."
The left-winger, who has served in the top EU job since July 2014, is quitting Brussels to run as a Social Democratic Party candidate in Germany's 2017 general election.
Schulz also said that he had made the European Parliament "more visible, more audible and more influential", while describing his presidency as an "extraordinary honour".
"I have never been a convenient or easy president," he said. "Nevertheless, I have always tried to fight for the cause of Europe to the best of my conscience, so that Europeans can overcome the trenches and so that we can all contribute together to a more peaceful world."
Italian politician Antonio Tajani, the centre-right candidate for the European People's Party group, is the favourite to succeed Schulz as European Parliament President.
If Tajani is appointed to the top post, it would mean the three major EU presidencies are taken by right-wingers, Donald Tusk as European Council president and Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.
Schulz's statement was released just hours after Nigel Farage addressed the European Parliament. The former Ukip leader, who has been Eurosceptic thorn in Schulz's side, accused Theresa May of "dithering" over Brexit.
"It's been six months since we voted for our liberation," he told fellow MEPs. Farage also predicted "bigger shocks" in 2017 for the EU after Donald Trump's White House victory, the Italian constitutional referendum result and the Brexit vote.
May has promised to trigger Article 50, the official mechanism to split from the EU, by the end of March 2017.
But the government is waiting to see if MPs will have to vote on the issue after an appeal at the Supreme Court. A final ruling is expected in January 2017.