The next day starts with the big news of yesterday: Ursula is the new Queen of Europe. Yikes! In Poland the debate is if this is a true win for the Polish government or not so much. Let us put this empty debate aside. Not relevant for the future if you sell something as a success or not. The true question is that this new Commission will enjoy trust of the Warsaw government, at least at first, and how will this play out with the rule of law debate and the energy/climate transition, especially in the looming context of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework? Those are the questions for the future.
The question of the day is the next President of the European Parliament. Early afternoon, after the second ballot, the EP publishes a very unimpressive info:
Is 345 a majority of 751? Clearly not, but there is a twist in the definition of absolute majority for the Presidency of the European Parliament. The rules say clearly that the winner is the candidate who obtains ‘absolute majority of the votes cast‘. Since there are 667 votes cast, the 345 votes for Mr Sassoli is enough.
Ms von der Leyen needs ‘majority of the component Members‘, hence she shall seek a majority of 751 component Members.
David Sassoli is the new President of the European Parliament. MEP since 2009, a journalist before that, recently one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament.
In his inaugural address Mr Sassoli draws attention to the important link for the institution, the link between the European Parliament and the European Citizen. “We are different, not better or worse” and all of 512 million of us are equal. He talks about the EU agenda and challenges of social equality, climate change and digital transformation. He warns of the fear of nationalism and says, “we are all children or grandchildren of historical events” that collectively had a strong desire for freedom.
Mr Sassoli quotes Jean Monnet’s “Nothing lasts without institutions” words and proclaims himself a defender of the European Parliament powers vis-a-vis other institutions.
The European Parliament is a house with 40% women and 63% first-time elected MEPs. The debate that takes place following Mr Sassoli’s election already indicates the direction of the future EP dynamics: internal divisions, fighting the Council and its member states and cautious majority formation. Ms Ska Keller of the Greens demands protection of the MEP who is barred from taking the mandate (bad states!), Mr Marco Zanni of far-right Identity and Democracy is worried that other groups will not allow for ID to take leadership of two committees. Politico is already reporting about the plot to stop the ID taking over the AGRI (Agriculture) and JURI (Legal Affairs) committees calling it “cordon sanitaire” of the far-right.
Mr Ciolos of RE ponders the question of “backroom deals” that others are also referring to. What did they all have in mind? Probably the yesterday last moment secret arrangements of new European leaders with the biggest star of Ms Ursula von der Leyen.
There is one element that is difficult to miss: the amount of people who speak Italian! And it turns out they all are Italian. The only person who does not speak her first language is Ms Ska Keller. Congratulations. Others speak their first ethnic tongues. The Italian outgoing President of the Parliament Tajani passes the baton to a new Italian President of the Parliament Sassoli. Following that two of the group leaders speak Italian, the ID and ECR, as both gentlemen are Italian. Mr Raffaelle Fitto is co-chair, to be precise. Tutta l’Europa parla italiano!
The Vice Presidents
There are 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament. In the first round 11 are chosen, and here is the top 7 Vice-Presidents with the highest support. Among them two names stand out: Ms Mairead McGuinness has been a VP already and in the election process she voiced an ambition to become the leader of the institution. Clearly this was not possible today, but as the most popular VP in 2.5 years time… Ms McGuiness is Irish and sits with the EPP.
The second name worth mentioning is Ms Ewa Kopacz, who just arrived in the European Parliament and already changes a position. A little over a month ago Ms Kopacz was catapulted from the national politics into the European sphere and appointed a deputy head of the EPP. Ms Kopacz is a former Speaker of the Sejm, the Polish parliament, and one of many former Polish Prime Ministers in the Strasbourg chamber (2014-15). Since the Polish is the second-biggest national delegation inside the EPP, and the Germans keep the position of the group leader (Mr Weber’s consolation prize), there might be an appetites for another change of jobs 2.5 years down the line.