Sunday

4th Dec 2022

Liberals set to haggle over support for Pottering as parliament chair

Liberal MEPs are set to decide on 27 September whether to put up a candidate to be the new EU parliament president, with leader Graham Watson hinting he would rather get concessions from the centre-right front-runner than lose against him in next year's vote.

The liberals are the third biggest group in the 732-strong European Parliament with 89 members and their votes are not necessary to push the German Christian democrat Hans Gert-Poettering through as he can be sure of the socialists' support.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Back in 2004, the European People's Party (EPP-ED) with 263 members made a deal with the socialists (PES, 200 members) to divide the five-year post between them.

As a result of this backroom agreement, a centre-right candidate should replace Josep Borell, the socialist president, at the beginning of 2007.

Centre-right MEPs are set to decide on their nominee on 14 November but - in Mr Poettering's words - it is an "open secret" that his own election may come along as a result of an "uncontested decision."

Mr Watson argues that it would be reasonable for liberals to announce their own candidate only if it was "what Pottering is not, so ideally a black woman from a new member state," he told journalists on Thursday (14 September).

There are no black female MEPs in the liberal group, although there are six female deputies from the new member states - one from Hungary and Slovenia and four from Lithuania.

If the liberals decide to put up their own candidate and "no one else would be willing to stand," Mr Watson said he would do so himself, but pointed out that it would be humiliating for him after a election defeat to sit with Mr Poettering at the weekly meeting of political group presidents.

In 2004, the liberals did throw in their own contender - Polish MEP Bronislaw Geremek- who got 208 votes as opposed to Mr Borell's 388 votes, but it is not expected that he would run again or that other aspirants will emerge.

Insiders suggest that a much more likely scenario is Mr Poettering pushing for a broad majority support for his candidacy - as only that would be recognized as a victory given the back-door deal with the socialists - and so will respond positively to calls from others in exchange for their votes.

For his part, Mr Watson expects the new president to promise to back parliamentary reform - to become more "financially responsible" and have a "more vibrant political institution" that would react promptly to crucial events on both the EU and in international politics.

Still, before any potential bargaining kicks off, Mr Watson concluded on Wednesday that in terms of parliamentary reform, "we would see very little if anything" from Mr Poettering.

He pointed to a case last week when the German centre-right leader refused to support Mr Borrell's idea to call for an extraordinary plenary session on CIA secret flights and prisons following the US president's public statement admitting they existed.

Magazine

Parliament president: red-carpet mannequin or hot seat?

The post of president of the European Parliament can be (almost) whatever the person elected makes out of it. Some stick to their ceremonial duties - while others have used the presidency for more Machiavellian power games.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels. The hire comes as the EU Commission threatens a lawsuit against France over fishing.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us