Antonio Tajani promises to represent ‘all MEPs’ if elected as EU Parliament president
Italian MEP clear favourite in presidential race but still needs the support of other groups to be assured of victory.
Antonio Tajani | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual
Italian deputy Antonio Tajani, the favourite to become parliament’s next president, has pledged to ensure that “all MEPs” are fully represented if he is elected.
His message was directed at parliament’s smaller political groups such as the Greens/EFA alliance which have in the past complained that they are often marginalised in the assembly’s decision making process.
Tajani, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) candidate for the parliament’s top post, was speaking on Wednesday at an informal hearing organised by the Greens group.
Laying out what he repeatedly stressed was a “non-political” agenda, Tajani, who is a former EU commissioner and long-standing MEP, said one of his priorities as president would be to ensure that all MEPs received “equal treatment.”
He told the packed meeting, “It is important all are seen on an equal footing. The Greens are important in achieving an overall balance in the parliament and I will do my utmost, if elected, to make sure that each and every group here is treated in an identical way.”
He added, “That means fair treatment for one and all. Mine will be an impartial, not political, presidency.”
He pledged to appoint a cabinet member who would be tasked with dealing with parliament-related issues raised by members and added, “My door will always be open.”
Tajani, who was given a 45-minute grilling by Greens deputies, said the same approach would be adopted in ensuring the parliament is “not pushed out of the picture” by the European commission or council.
He conceded that many Europeans felt “disconnected” to the EU, adding, “People just do not like the EU or the institutions any more. The EU is partly to blame for this but so too are national governments.”
Tajani also revealed that when he left the Commission to resume his career as an MEP he had “turned down” €500,000 to which he said he was entitled.
“I did this because it did not seem the right thing to do at a time when so many people were losing their jobs because of the economic crisis.
“I was and am perfectly content with the salary I get as an MEP.”
As the representative of the parliament’s biggest political grouping, Tajani is the clear favourite in the presidential race but still needs the support of other groups, such as the Greens, to be assured of victory in the vote next week in Strasbourg.
In a Q and A session which followed, Tajani was asked, if elected, whether he would ensure that sanctions against members who break the assembly’s code of conduct would be enforced.
On this, he said, “I am all in favour of the code of conduct and all MEPs must comply with the rules of this house.”
He was also pressed on whether, during next week’s voting rounds, he would be willing to negotiate with “extremist” groups such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National.
His reply was, “I have never had any dealings with Front National or spoke to anyone from that group.”
Tajani also pledged to “improve” the way parliament’s communications budget is spent, saying, “We have to do away with [branded] pens and countless documents that people never read and find a better way of communicating.”
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has warned Europe to prepare for another migration crisis.
But EU chief insists Brussels not in a 'hostile mood' towards the UK over its planned exit.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of failing to provide clarity in her showcase speech outlining her government's Brexit plans.
The EU must 'take the lead' in tackling alcohol-related harm, writes Mariann Skar.
As presidency candidates call for 'new start', very few concrete plans are being put forward on 'Europe's youth', says Patrik Kovács.
Who is controlling the counter-narratives to extremism? This is the question that many EU policymakers want answered, argues Tehmina Kazi.