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The European Parliament will open the year with a new president

  • The Maltese candidate of the European People's Party, Roberta Metsola, great favorite to replace the Italian socialist David Sassoli

  • The plenary session of the European Parliament will renew from January 17 to his senior leadership for the second half of the legislature

One of the first tasks of the year 2022 that the European Parliament will have on the table when it meets from January 17 in the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg it will be the election of its new president . After two and a half years in office, the mandate of David Sassoli comes to an end and in the absence of an alternative Viable, the Social Democrats have chosen to step back and not fight for the position. This decision prevents the political agreement to divide the presidency between popular and socialists from being blown up in the middle of a difficult legislature and very particular, marked by a pandemic that has greatly complicated the legislative and logistical activity of the chamber.

The decision of the group of the European Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and of the Liberals of Renew Europe , the second and third with the highest weight in the chamber, not presenting a candidate for office clears the way for Roberta Metsola (Malta, 42 years old), nominated by the European People's Party (PPE) last November and great favorite to replace Sassoli. The only two groups to present a candidate, outside the EPP, have been the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR in their acronym in English) and the European Left .

The first, which includes Vox , has presented the Polish ultraconservative party Law and Justice (PiS), Kosma Zlotowski . The left, for its part, has nominated the Spanish Sira Rego . Both groups have 64 and 39 MEPs respectively and, although neither Socialists nor Liberals have confirmed their support for the EPP candidate – the main group with 177 seats – the lack of a clear alternative makes it quite unlikely that they could jeopardize the future of Metsola. Before becoming one of the first MEPs for Malta in 2013, this lawyer – graduated from the College of Europe in Bruges, pool of diplomats and senior European officials- worked in the Maltese delegation to the EU and was an advisor to the e head of European diplomacy, Catherine Ashton .

Position on abortion

Current First Vice President of the Chamber – replaced in 2019 the conservative Irish Mairead McGuinness when she was appointed European Commissioner for Financial Services and Capital Markets- his appointment has drawn much criticism partly from the left for his view on the reproductive rights of women and their repeated opposition to abortion , illegal in his native Malta. Despite this obvious obstacle, the Maltese, who represents the most progressive wing of the European conservatives , has left a positive impression in another part of the bench thanks to his negotiating spirit on immigration policy and his support for the LGBTI community.

The fact that she is a woman also plays in her favor. The presidency of the European Parliament has only counted in its history, more than twenty years ago, with two women at the helm -the French socialist Simone Veil and the French conservative Nicole Fontaine – and many of her colleagues consider that the time has come to move on the witness to a woman from a small country such as Malta , which together with Luxembourg or Cyprus holds one of the smaller delegations with only 6 MEPs compared to 59 from Spain, 76 from Italy or 95 from Germany.

Transferring the presidency of the European Parliament to popular hands will save the pact of legislature closed two and a half years ago although, at the same time, it will break the always difficult balance in the top European leadership, negotiated in July 2019, since the Socialists, who have regained ground at the political and government level A lone man or coalition in seven European Union countries, including powerful Germany, would lose one of the EU's key posts. Neither the European Commission (Ursula von der Leyen, PPE), nor the European Central Bank (Christine Lagarde, PPE), nor the European Council (Charles Michel, Liberals). And if they lose the European Parliament in two weeks – the vote is scheduled for January 18 – they will only maintain the position of High Representative for EU Foreign Policy, held by the Spanish socialist Josep Borrell .

Socialist exam

An important setback for the Socialists who before deciding the direction of their vote will examine Metsola in audience. “We want to hear from the PPE candidate because some of her views are unacceptable for us,” she alleged last December the leader of the Social Democrats, Iratxe García . “We await commitments and clarifications on some important issues such as women's rights , the tax justice , the Rule of Law and social justice ”, he specified. If elected, Metsola, who would become the youngest president of the European Parliament , has promised to stay neutral on issues such as abortion, but it remains to be seen if this promise will be enough.

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And it is that, in addition to negotiating a more social political agenda that reflects the priorities of the group, the Socialists want to wrest from the popular the promise of new positions in other instances of the European Parliament that unbalance the balance in their favor.

For example, more presence at the chamber table with more vice-presidencies (of the 14 existing the PPE has four fronts three the Socialists and two the Liberals) and Quaestors – a position responsible for administrative or economic affairs – (currently three the PPE, one the PSE and one the Liberals) and even the position of Secretary General. A position of great weight, responsible for managing the machinery of the camera, and in the hands of the German conservative Klaus Welle for no less than 13 years . If the Socialists succeed in imposing their new political clout, the post could go to the German Socialist Markus Winkler , Deputy Secretary General and former chief of staff of the former president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz .

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