EP gets set for a tumultuous few weeks
By Honor Mahony
The incoming European Parliament is to hit the ground running in the coming days as it forms, hears commissioners, hosts EU leaders, and takes a potentially ground-breaking vote on the new EU commission president.
The eighth EU assembly will be formally constituted on Tuesday (1 July) with 751 MEPs from 186 national parties.
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There will be seven political factions ranging from the far-left to to the eurosceptic right; far-right MEPs did not manage to form an alliance.
The new EP will remain dominated by men - 63 percent - while its youngest MEP is a 26-year old Dane and its oldest a 91-year old Greek.
Around half (50.6%) of deputies are unfamiliar with the EP's corridors, including all of Greece's MEPs. Germany, on the other hand, had the smallest changing of the guard - 70 percent of its deputies remain the same.
The EP's first task will be to elect its new president, which, abiding by traditions' passed, is set once more to be a backroom carve-up of the five-year term between the centre-right EPP and the Socialists.
The EPP is not running a candidate as it has promised to give its support to Socialist Martin Schulz, who has just held the office but who negotiated the chance for another 2.5 year stint as consolation for losing his bid to become commission president.
Voting is by secret ballot and the contender needs an absolute majority (376) of all MEPs to get the post. If three rounds of votes don't see someone elected, the two most popular candidates have a run-off vote.
Other challengers for the presidency - which has taken on increasing political weight as the EP's powers have expanded - are Sajjad Karim, a British Conservative, Pablo Iglesias, a Spanish member of the far-left faction, and Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek.
Also up for grabs next week are 14 vice-presidencies and places on the EP's powerful legislation-making committees. Committee chairs are set to be formally decided the following week, though there are already indications that the EPP will keep foreign affairs and the Socialists the economic affairs commitee.
Next week will also see the newly-formed EP roll straight back into the political arena, as it hosts the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, taking stock of the country's just-finished presidency, and Italian leader Matteo Renzi, taking over the EU presidency reins.
Renzi, riding the back of an impressive win in the EP elections which has made the Italian delegation the biggest in the S&D group, is expected to deliver a sharp anti-austerity message in the EU chamber.
Meanwhile, the EP is also gearing up for hearings on four new EU commissioners taking up their posts in July to replace colleagues moving to the parliament. A vote on new commissioners is set for 17 July.
But the high date in the EP's calendar will be 16 July. On this day it is supposed to elect the next EU commission president, with Jean-Claude Juncker set to be the nominee.
The former Luxembourg PM is due to be proposed by EU leaders at a summit starting later today (26 June). If he is then voted into office by the parliament, it will represent a major political and institutional coup for the assembly which has insisted, in an expansive interpretation of the EU treaty, that the lead candidate of the party winning the most votes in the EU election be automatically nominated for the post.