Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again

  • Beata Szydlo (r) is struggling to become chair of the employment committee at the EU parliament (Photo: premier.gov.pl)

Poland's populist and former prime minister Beata Szydlo failed to muster enough support in her second bid to chair a European Parliament committee.

The blow, delivered in Strasbourg on Monday (15 July) by MEPs on the employment committee, comes amid a larger, behind-the-scenes struggle for the European Commission top job.

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With 34 votes against and 19 in support, ending with a decision to postpone the vote once again and to do it a third time, Szydlo claimed she had a better respect for values than many others represented in the committee.

"I think I am one of the few people in this room for whom European values are an extreme and utter importance," she said.

To a round of applause from her conservative and centre-right supporters, Szydlo said her loss was a demonstration that European values were not being respected.

But as the vice-chair of Poland's right wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Szydlo has struck a difficult chord among the more pro-EU political group factions.

PiS has led a campaign to undermine the independence of its country's judiciary and a broader assault against rule of law, according to a report earlier this month by Amnesty International.

The report followed a December 2017 decision by the European Commission to launch a so-called Article 7 procedure, where ministers assess whether Poland breached fundamental values laid down in the EU treaty.

"We can't vote for a non-democratic candidate," said German Green MEP Katrin Langensiepen in a tweet following the committee vote.

Romania's former minister of labour, a socialist MEP called Dragos Pislaru, made similar comments.

"For us, values are non-negotiable," he said, also in a tweet.

The Szydlo debacle came ahead of a plenary EP vote on whether to endorse Ursula von der Leyen, a German centre-right candidate, for the European Commission presidency in a vote on Tuesday.

Von der Leyen might need ECR votes to scrape through if enough socialists and liberals vote against her or abstain.

But the ECR has made its support for von der Leyen conditional on getting the main groups to back Szydlo for the committee role.

Szydlo was nominated for the chair by the anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) political group, representing 62 MEPs.

"We are talking about a person who has done a lot of work in her own country," said the co-president of the ECR group, noting she had obtained almost a half million votes in Poland.

A spokesperson for the group told this website that the ECR will now meet on Tuesday after a plenary debate with the European Commission president designate to determine next steps.

Szydlo is the sole candidate for the employment chair. She had also lost a previous vote last week for the same post.

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