27th Sep 2023

Socialists and Greens jockeying for vacant EU Parliament vice-presidency

  • French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield is seeking to take the vice-presidency seat left vacant by Greek socialist MEP, Eva Kaili (Photo: European Parliament)
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The European Parliament is set to vote on a new vice-president to replace Eva Kaili, a Greek socialist MEP charged over allegations of corruption linked to Qatar.

Two candidates, one each from the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and the Greens, are hoping to fill the post when the plenary votes in Strasbourg on Wednesday (18 January).

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Kaili is currently in pre-trial detention in Haren prison in Belgium.

The Socialists have put forward Mark Angel, a Luxembourg MEP. The Green contender is Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a French MEP.

"We have every confidence that he [Angel] will get the majority support of this house," socialist group leader Iratxe Garcia Perez, told reporters.

Garcia Perez is counting on support from both the liberal Renew Europe and the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), following a previous agreement among them on the distribution of top leadership positions.

"It was clear that the socialist group, the S&D group, would have five vice presidencies and that is still an agreement," she said.

Party politics

But EPP group leader Manfred Weber may have tossed a spanner into that agreement.

Weber declined to offer immediate support for the socialist candidate, telling reporters a decision has yet to be made within his group.

He then blamed the socialists for dragging their feet on the corruption scandal, noting that implicated socialist MEPs have yet to be formally ousted from the S&D.

The Belgian authorities have demanded immunity be lifted on Italian socialist MEP Andrea Cozzolino and Belgian socialist Marc Tarabella over their alleged role in the Qatari corruption scandal.

Garcia Perez expects both to resign. If they don't, then they will be expelled, she said.

But Weber remains wary.

"The socialists must be more committed to solve the problem and that is not yet the case," he said.

Despite the criticism, the EPP is still likely to support the socialist candidate in a vote that will be held in secret.

Stéphane Sejourne, who heads the liberal Renew Europe, said his group supports the socialist bid to retake the vice-presidency post left vacant by Kaili.

"Our political group will support the candidacy put forward by the S&D group," he said.

"We keep to the balance that was agreed on," he said, in reference to the agreement made with the socialists and the EPP. The Left have yet to announce support for either candidate.

The Greens

For their part, the Greens have put forward French MEP Delbos-Corfield.

The Greens say Delbos-Corfield was nominated because she has been working on internal reforms, transparency and integrity.

The Greens also currently have only once vice-president, Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala, sitting on the Bureau, a political body that lays down the internal rules for the parliament.

Delbos-Corfield said the European Parliament has been slow to act when it comes to the lifting of immunity of MEPs.

On Tuesday, the plenary voted to ease the procedure for the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO).

The EPPO had last December requested Kaili's immunity be lifted, as well as for Greek centre-right EPP Maria Spyraki.

Both are under investigation for suspicion of fraud when it comes to paying accredited parliamentary assistants.

Delbos-Corfield said the parliament could have eased the procedures months ago but chose not to.

"It's really a very good example on how we are not pro-active enough," she said.

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