Thursday

27th Apr 2017

EPP struggles for unity on presidential candidate

  • Two presidential-hopefuls: Antonio Tajani and Mairead McGuinness.

As MEPs flock to Strasbourg for the last plenary session of the year, the European Parliament's largest group, the centre-right EPP, is busy electing its candidate for the next president of the assembly.

Four members of the group have so far joined the race, although more could follow before the deadline expires on Monday evening (12 December). The group's candidate for the top job will be chosen in an internal election on Tuesday.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The process has been anything but smooth, a senior EPP member told this website.

"I think we set the date too late, especially as there are many among us who would like to be the president. Discussions are very difficult. It's a huge challenge not to split the group," the lawmaker added.

"But at least we had a transparent process, where everyone could present themselves."

'Grand coalition'

The four to have thrown their hat in the ring so far are France's Alain Lamassoure, 72, who is serving his fifth mandate in the European Parliament; Irish former journalist and farmer, Mairead McGuinness, 57; Italian former EU commissioner Antonio Tajani, 63; and the former prime minister of Slovenia, Alojz Peterle, 68.

EPP group leader German Manfred Weber, 44, and Othmar Karas, 58, an Austrian, are also believed to harbour presidential ambitions.

Gunnar Hoekmark, from the Swedish delegation, said he was sure the candidate who won most votes on Tuesday would have "the full backing" of the group.

He was more worried about support from other groups. To win, a candidate needs the vote of 376 MEPs, decided by a run-off if no candidate gets enough support in three rounds of voting. The EPP group has 214 MEPs.

At the start of the current term, in 2014, the group struck a deal with the Socialist group, the second largest in the parliament with 189 members.

The two agreed to take the most important decisions together, and this way reduce the influence of the eurosceptic groups.

Part of the "grand coalition" agreement was to divide the presidency post among the two for half the term each.

The EPP was due to have its turn from next year. But Socialist group leader, Italian Gianni Pittella broke the agreement by declaring himself the "progressive" candidate, a step that angered EPP members and cast doubt on the future power balance in the European Parliament.

"The Socialists are acting against their own interests. They are undermining their own position in the European Parliament," Hoekmark said, adding that he hoped they would in the end stick to the promise they made.

It's also unsure if the EPP can rely on the other pro-European groups.

The liberal Alde and its 69 members have been pondering to put forward their leader Guy Verhofstadt as a compromise candidate. Verhofstadt will decide in the next few days whether to run or not, an Alde spokesman said on Friday.

The Greens, one of the smallest groups with 50 members, were unlikely to field their own candidate, a spokesman said on Friday.

Some of the group's MEPs have said they wouldn't mind to vote for a woman, hinting they could back Mairead McGuinness if the EPP were to chose her as a candidate.

But Greens wouldn't make formal commitments. "The best way to kill a candidacy is by naming it," Green co-chair Philippe Lamberts has said.

The next president of the European Parliament will be elected on 17 January in a series of secret ballots.

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.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Controlling the right of repeal

There was a distinct air of finality about Sir Tim Barrow's personal delivery of the Article 50 letter in Brussels – it certainly marks the end of an era.

Be fair in Brexit talks, EU tells UK

European Council chief Tusk sent draft guidelines to member states. He said the EU wants "fairness" and then warned against using security cooperation as bargaining chip.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. EU agency stuck with London rent bill
  2. EU anti-fraud office ditches Martin Schulz probe
  3. Commission launches bid to make Europe social
  4. MEPs act to strip Le Pen of immunity in fake jobs case
  5. EU starts legal action against Hungary
  6. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  7. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  8. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts