In what is expected to be his last major interview as head of the European Parliament, Schulz said some Brussels bureaucrats are failing to understand the realities of the problems faced by people across Europe.
He told the Europa newspaper group: “Some people in the apparatuses of Brussels are indeed far decoupled from the reality which confronts people on a day-to-day basis.
“Only taking notice of Brussels can make you believe that Brussels life is the reality of people in Europe.”
Schulz admitted the EU was “treading water” as increasing support for populist movements left national governments unable to sell the European vision in their home nations.
He also conceded that Brussels had underestimated cultural differences between the Western EU member states and the more recent additions in Eastern Europe, such as Hungary and the Baltic states.
Schulz admitted: “We underestimated how the two halves of Europe had drifted apart.
“The cultural, scientific and political structures of the west cannot be adopted one to one.”
Schulz is widely expected to return to German politics ahead of the country’s general election this year, with the Social Democratic party (SPD) politician tipped to replace foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in one of the most high-profile political roles.
However, the European Parliament president is unlikely to run for Chancellor, following claims he does not want to cause possible divisions within the SPD by running against party leader Sigmar Gabriel.
No official decision will be taken by the party until the end of the month about who will be the party’s candidate for Germany’s top political job that could see the current incumbent Angela Merkel ousted.
Schulz announced he would be leaving his Brussels role in November and appears likely to gain a seat in Germany’s Bundestag in the general election later this year.