Political groups ‘very cagey’ over nominations for Parliament presidency

Written by Martin Banks on 27 June 2019 in News
News

Veteran MEP Richard Corbett says it is “amazing” that only one political group has so far nominated anyone for the presidency of the European Parliament.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


His comments come as MEPs prepare to elect a new President in Strasbourg next Wednesday.

So far, only the ECR group has put forward a candidate, Czech deputy Jan Zahradil.

The two biggest groups, the EPP and Socialists, have not proposed a candidate, even though MEPs will be asked to elect a successor to Italian member Antonio Tajani during next week’s plenary, the first since the European elections in May.


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Speaking to this website on Thursday, Corbett said, “The political groups are being very cagey at present and everyone seems to be waiting, but I have to say it is amazing none have come forward with any names yet.”

He added, “Who knows what will happen? At present, it is anyone’s guess who parliament’s next president will be.”

The big stumbling block has been the inability of Member States, so far, to come up with a compromise candidate for the European Commission presidency to replace Jean-Claude Juncker.

An emergency summit of EU leaders will be held on Sunday in Brussels in a bid to broker a deal.

“Who knows what will happen? At present, it is anyone’s guess who Parliament’s next President will be” Richard Corbett MEP

If successful, this would allow Parliament to ratify the nomination - a majority of MEPs is needed for that - and also allow MEPs to elect a President for the assembly.

The election of Parliament’s President, which can consist of up to four ballots, has already been put back 24 hours, from Tuesday to Wednesday, to give members more time.

PARLIAMENT AJOURNMENT?

If no decision is made on Sunday at the summit one possibility, floated by some MEPs, is that Parliament would be adjourned for up to a month to allow the electoral process to be completed.

Another idea is that a “temporary” President would be installed until such time that a decision could be taken on a permanent appointment.

A senior EPP source told this website, “There aren’t any nominations so far from any political groups, apart from one, and that is because they are still waiting for the European Council to propose a name for the Commission presidency.”

Tajani is thought to be keen on carrying on in the role but the feeling, according to Corbett, is that his possible candidacy is unlikely to muster much support.

“There aren’t any nominations so far from any political groups, apart from one, and that is because they are still waiting for the European Council to propose a name for the Commission presidency” Senior EPP source

His term in office has been marked by what some have called a “series of embarrassing gaffes” which have left him “red faced.”

NAMES IN THE FRAME

Other names in the frame include Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the old ALDE group (now Renew Europe), Finnish Greens MEP Heidi Hautala, Italian Socialist member David-Maria Sassoli and, from the EPP group, Irish member Mairead McGuinness.

On Thursday, McGuinness, when asked directly by this website about her possible candidacy, declined to comment.

None of the other possible candidates, including Tajani, have commented.

Zahradil, who recently ran as a ‘lead candidate’ for the Commission presidency during the European elections, briefly explained his ambitions for Parliament’s top job, saying, “The Parliament should be open and transparent and as president I want to unite the house so that all members are treated equally and they can all better connect with their electorates.”

An ECR source said, “There is lots of chat at the moment. But, apart from Verhoftstadt and McGuinness, the only other one I’ve heard is Ming Flanagan of GUE.”

“The Parliament should be open and transparent and as President I want to unite the house so that all members are treated equally and they can all better connect with their electorates” Jan Zahradil MEP

Scottish SNP deputy Alyn Smith said, “I have to say that this horse trading leaves me pretty cold and I really don’t like that the Parliament’s presidency is linked to the EU top jobs at all.”

Former UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff said, “My money is on Verhofstadt and McGuinness.”

A Renew Europe source said, “Guy Verhofstadt is indeed mentioned as a possible compromise candidate. If successful, that would show that the Renew Europe group is an important part of the new coalition in Parliament.”

But, with speculation swirling around the corridors of Parliament, one EPP press officer joked, ”We are in what the US army calls a VUCA situation: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.”

Meanwhile, the ECR group has named Italian Raffaele Fitto and Polish deputy Ryszard Legutko as its new group leaders.

Legutko said: “We are delighted to establish our group for the next five years and to continue our positive and constructive approach to bringing about lasting change to the way the EU works.”

“Together we will work towards an EU that does less but better and that works for and respects all its Member States, not only the biggest two or just those that agree with the status quo.”

“My money is on Verhofstadt and McGuinness” Andrew Duff, former UK Liberal MEP

Elsewhere, a Parliament insider says speculation is mounting that the right-wing ID group, that includes French deputy Marine Le Pen, will be allocated two committees in the new term: the legal affairs and agriculture committees.

According to the senior source, the EPP will get up to six committee chairs, including foreign affairs, the Socialists will chair four committees, including economic affairs and the Greens will be awarded two chairmanships, including transport.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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