Wednesday

20th Sep 2017

EU parliament swerves right with Tajani's election

  • Antonio Tajani was greeted by fellow MEPs after winning the European Parliament's presidential elections. (Photo: European Parliament)

Antonio Tajani, a former EU commissioner and ally of Italy's one-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was elected president of the European Parliament on Tuesday (17 January) after liberals and eurosceptics rallied behind him.

The Italian candidate from the centre-right EPP group won the backing of 351 MEPs in the fourth round of the vote, against fellow Italian Gianni Pittella, from the centre-left S&D, who gathered 282 votes.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Tajani succeeds centre-left Martin Schulz, who is leaving European politics (Photo: European Parliament)

Tajani's win marks the end of a time-honoured cooperation between the parliament's two largest groups.

It also gives the EPP the leadership in three EU institutions, along with Jean-Claude Juncker at the commission and Donald Tusk at the EU council.

Tajani's EPP and Pittella's S&D are used to striking deals at the beginning of each parliament term to take the most important decisions together, in order to reduce the influence of of the other political groups.

Part of the so-called grand coalition was to divide the presidency post among the two for half the term each.

But Pittella, the S&D group leader, broke off the agreement by declaring himself the "progressive candidate" in the race, when the EPP was due to have its turn.

New alliances

Instead, the EPP had to forge alliances with the liberal Alde and eurosceptic ECR groups to secure the presidency.

Just hours before the vote, it formally entered a "pro-European coalition" with Alde, under which the two groups committed to work together on eurozone governance, security, migration and jobs.

EPP expressed its backing for a number of key liberal demands, such as EU reform through a convention; a new mechanism to ensure the rule of law in EU member states; and a stronger role for the parliament in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, where Alde leader Guy Verhofstadt is the parliament's coordinator.

ECR, meanwhile, threw its weight behind Tajani in the fourth round in exchange for "a clear set of political commitments", according to a statement on the group's Twitter account.

It's unclear what those demands are. Contrary to the deal with Alde, they were not put down in writing.

The group, whose biggest delegations hail from the British Conservatives and Poland's ruling Law of Justice (PiS), also said they refused to endorse the pro-European coalition, "as many aspects represent failed policies of the past".

UK prime minister Theresa May, who leads the Conservatives, said on Tuesday she wanted the UK to leave the EU single market, and PiS has been found by the European Commission and the Council of Europe to undermine the rule of law in Poland.

It remains to be seen how the EPP will balance the views of their new allies, and whether this will force them to seek the support of their socialist former partners.

A president 'for all'

At the direct request of ECR, Tajani distanced himself from the EPP-Alde deal, saying solutions to the eurozone, refugee and security crises "are not found in more and more Europe, neither are they found in blowing up the European project".

"It is not for the European Parliament president to push a political agenda. That's up to you, members of the European Parliament. You decide together the direction in which we go and how we give shape to these changes," he said in an emailed statement which was issued before the final round of voting.

He committed himself to being a neutral president, who listens to all the groups and does not predetermine the outcome of decisions.

But the head of the French EPP delegation, Franck Proust, told a group of journalists that the parliament was likely skew to the right.

"In the end, this rupture of respect [by the social democrats] somewhere serves us. Compromise with the socialists was always very complicated, as we don't really share the same philosophy and fundamental values," he said.

"I think we can have more of a common vision with ECR and liberals. Maybe this way we can better reach what Europeans want on defence, migration and security, and employment," he added, while admitting it would take "nuances" to work on a pro-European agenda with eurosceptics.

Polish MEPs also backed cooperation, even if it meant closer cooperation in Brussels and Strasbourg between arch-rival centre-right Civic Platform and PiS parties.

"It's a different dynamic in the European Parliament. We are not really governing together, we are rather all representing the interests of Polish citizens," said Civic Platform's Michal Boni.

"The Civic Platform will go along with it because we will work together for the benefit of the European Union," ECR's Ryszard Czarnecki added.

Socialists take opposition role

Meanwhile, S&D members did not seem unhappy of the end of the grand coalition, even if they lost the presidency and will likely see their influence in the parliament reduced.

"The group is very united behind our leader Gianni Pittella. We all support his efforts to break off the grand coalition," said French socialist Christine Revault d'Allonnes-Bonnefoy.

"This election has set off a broader movement. Many of my socialist colleagues have felt that our cooperation with the EPP had reached a dead end," Swedish social democrat Jytte Guteland added. "In our view, they have become increasingly self-confident and arrogant in the negotiations, and there is increased frustration that we aren't meeting as equals."

The S&D group still hopes to strike progressive alliances with MEPs from the green and radical left GUE/NGL groups, as well as individual liberals disgruntled with EPP cooperation. Should those not suffice to form majorities, the socialists would be able to distance themselves from for the current EU policies, for which they were until now partly responsible.

"We will sit down with the socialists and greens and see where we can stand together on trade, social policy and migration," said Gabi Zimmer, leader of the GUE/NGL group. But she warned that the progressive block was far from a done deal.

"Socialists have been supporting austerity for years. Our cooperation is not something we will settle in a backroom agreement, it must evolve on the base of common trust and experiences."

How the new parliament works in practice will be tested on Wednesday, when it elects its vice-presidents and "quaestors" - the MEPs who look after the financial and administrative interests of their colleagues.

Centre-right reveals 2014 EU parliament deal

Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right EPP group, says socialist and liberal leaders have to stick to their pledges and let EPP's Antonio Tajani become parliament president.

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.

New EU parliament coalitions get in shape

Social-democrats and their allies scored a major win on Thursday with the adoption of a report on social rights. But questions remain on the parliament's power balance after the end of the left-right grand coalition.

EU Parliament chief calls for 'good budget'

Antonio Tajani said that "more political decisions" are needed to tackle youth unemployment, illegal migration and terrorism ahead of the next European elections.

Investigation

EU bank accused of muzzling watchdog

An ongoing review of the the European Investment Bank's "complaints mechanism" could make the oversight branch less independent and less effective.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan leader decries Spanish government intervention
  2. Hungary set for fresh campaign against public enemy Soros
  3. Iceland's PM leads in polls ahead of October elections
  4. Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds cancel referendum
  5. Ireland to hold referendum on ownership of water
  6. Report: May to offer €20bn as Brexit bill in Florence speech
  7. Merkel poised to win election despite CDU dip in polls
  8. EU unveils cyber security ideas

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressCommends the German Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  2. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  3. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  4. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  6. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  7. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  8. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  9. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  11. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  12. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package
  2. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  3. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  4. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  5. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  6. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  7. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  8. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change
  9. European Free AllianceSave The Date!! 26.09 - Coppieters Awards To... Carme Forcadell
  10. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Grave Concern Over Rise in Antisemitism in Poland
  11. EU2017EECybersecurity and the Estonian Presidency
  12. European Free AllianceFemu a Corsica. A Corsican Nationalist Party With a European Dimension