Thursday

20th Jun 2019

Pittella bid for EP chief threatens grand coalition

  • Gianni Pittella could go down in parliament's history as the man who ended the grand coalition between socialists and centre-right EPP.

The leader of the European Parliament's socialist (S&D) group, Gianni Pittella, has joined the race to become the institution's next president.

The Italian politician announced his bid at a press conference on Wednesday (30 November), saying: "My candidacy is for change."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“We want to put an end to the blind austerity and the national selfishness that has degraded the EU. We want to put forward a vision based on left-wing ideas, principles and strategies as an alternative to those advocated by the right."

His bid for presidency could already end a long-standing pact between the socialists and centre-right EPP.

Part of their deal was to divide the presidency post among the two for half the term each.

An EPP candidate was supposed to take over the post from German social democrat Martin Schulz in January.

EPP leader Manfred Weber warned last week that a failure by the parliament's pro-EU parties to unite behind a joint nominee could end with turmoil, as it would strengthen so-called populists and make it more difficult to pass legislation.

But according to sources, the socialists have realised their cosy relationship with the EPP was damaging their political profile. The presidency post is seen as crucial to get across the group's messages.

It remains to be seen whether the parliament's progressive caucus will endorse Pittella.

More candidates coming

Greens and left-wing Gue/NGL told this website they weren't aware that he was running and would have to discuss internally before deciding if he was fit for the job.

Gue/NGL, however, has already presented a wish list.

President Gabriele Zimmer told this website she hoped to see changes to a report on the parliament's rules of procedures to stop the socialists and EPP joining together to marginalise the parliament's smaller groups.

The liberals, meanwhile, are hopeful their leader Guy Verhofstadt could turn out to be a compromise candidate. They endorsed the former prime minister of Belgium as their nominee on Tuesday, but he has yet to formally announce his bid.

The EPP will elect its candidate on 13 December.

Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, a senior EPP MEP, told journalists on Wednesday that she was personally "open-minded" about the choice of the next president, as long as it was a good one.

"Martin Schulz did a lot to promote the image of the European Parliament externally, but he neglected the internal functioning of this house," the French MEP said.

"His successor must be a skilled negotiator, a strategist who can rally MEPs across the different groups."

Helga Stevens, a Belgian MEP who is running on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, said it appeared that the choice of president could be a "genuine election" for the first time in a decade.

"Instead of the usual backroom deal it seems that a number of candidates will put their names forward and, after a robust debate, MEPs will get to decide themselves who has the best ambition, character and priorities to take this parliament forward," she wrote in an opinion article for this website.

MEPs will pick their next president in secret ballots on 17 January next year.

EUobserved

Schulz: the end of a one-man parliament

Martin Schulz has been widely credited for raising the profile of the European Parliament during his terms at its helm. But he didn't do much to raise transparency and political accountability of the EU institutions.

Ethics drive at EU parliament hits a wall

Plans to increase transparency at the European Parliament have been postponed, in a move likely to result in weaker proposals when it goes to a vote.

Socialists dismiss EU parliament unity plea

Socialist leader Gianni Pittella rejects a call for continued cooperation from his centre-right counterpart, in a dispute that threatens the balance of power in the house.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson vs. Hunt to replace May as UK leader
  2. EU leaders take aim at Russia's role in Ukraine
  3. EUobserver appoints new interim editor-in-chief
  4. Ombudsman: Tusk's staff should record lobby meetings
  5. Tusk now 'more cautious' on top jobs decision at summit
  6. Mogherini: my replacement 'needs security experience'
  7. Irish PM: 'enormous hostility' to new Brexit extension
  8. Merkel hopes to name commission chief by early July

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Additional summit over top EU jobs looms
  2. EU advisor roasted over Russian media interview
  3. EU must counter Kushner's so-called 'peace' plan
  4. Tusk wants quick deal on EU top jobs at Thursday summit
  5. EU keeps North Macedonia and Albania at arm's length
  6. What's going on in Moldova - and what next?
  7. EU officials prepare for US extravaganza on Palestine
  8. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us