Gianni Pittella is the European Parliament’s Socialist group candidate to replace Martin Schulz who steps down as president next week.
A secret ballot of all MEPs will decide the next president and the Greens invited each of the candidates to put their case during informal hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
In his hearing, Pittella, the current socialist group leader, said that, if elected, he would make the conference of presidents, the body of group leaders, “a forum for real and open debate.”
He also pledged to be an “inclusive” president who would be “available to all MEPs, regardless of their role and function.”
He said he would also seek to conclude a “more ambitious” inter institutional agreement “which guarantees access to important and relevant” documents for all MEPs.
His candidacy has however incensed the parliament’s centre-right EPP group which, under a 2014 so called “grand coalition” agreement with the Socialist group, was due to take the presidency for the second half of the current parliament’s mandate.
The Socialists decided to end the deal after Schulz announced his departure. Pittella defended the decision to end the agreement saying it was necessary to ensure that all three EU institutions do not end up having an EPP-affiliated president all at the same time.
On Wednesday, Greens group MEPs gave their reaction to the performance by Pittella with leading Dutch member Bas Eickhout telling this website, “He had great difficulty explaining why he and his group ended the grand coalition.
“He did not really answer the question and he did not succeed in removing the many doubts about his candidacy in my group.”
His colleague, Finnish member Heidi Hautala was slightly more upbeat about Pittella but still said his answers to the questioning he faced had been “ambiguous.”
She said, “He did not make it clear what he thinks of the grand coalition and the agreement with the EPP group. That is where he was ambiguous and that is why his appearance raised more questions than gave answers.”
However, she added, “On the other hand, he was open and frank and gave good signals on some issues, such as his intention, if elected, to open up more parliamentary committees to discuss the CETA trade deal.
“He met with a lot of scepticism in the group but I still do not rule out us making some sort of deal with the Socialists next week.”