Monday

10th Dec 2018

'Abrasive' Schulz could lose parliamentary crown

Electing the president of the European Parliament is typically decided in a back-room carve-up between the legislature's two largest groups, but internal dynamics and personal dislikes could alter next January's vote.

Under the agreement struck between the centre-right EPP group and the Socialists (PES) in 2009, Socialist leader Martin Schulz is tipped to take over from parliamentary president Jerzy Buzek (EPP) half-way through the current five-year legislative period.

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

Designed to ensure the largest groups maintain a grip on power, the informal system is unpopular with smaller groups however, who are typically excluded from the post, despite potentially having strong candidates.

But sources in parliament's corridors suggest the changeover this time may be different, with some members of the centre-right EPP group potentially reluctant to give their backing to Schulz.

The parliament's third largest group, the Liberals, are quietly assessing whether a candidate from their political family could secure the votes of enough dissatisfied centre-right deputies to come out on top in January's vote.

They are hoping to capitalise on potential resistance by members of the centre-right EPP group to give their backing to Schulz, known for his abrasive political style. Any manoeuvre by a smaller group would be helped by the fact that the presidential vote is a secret ballot, requiring a simple majority.

"At present, we haven't decided whether we will put forward a candidate ... its something we will look at in the autumn," a senior Liberal source told this website.

"It's clear however that the current EPP-PES carve-up doesn't rejoice us. We believe that the president should be elected on merit."

"It's also evident that Schulz's aura is not one that is appreciated in parliament, to put it mildly. His style is highly direct."

While smaller groups may run presidential candidates out of democratic principle, the Liberal source said "electability" would be a key factor in deciding whether parliament's third largest group decided to field a name.

A second senior Liberal contact was more cautious however, pointing to former Liberal MEP Bronislaw Geremek, whose widespread popularity was nevertheless insufficient to beat Spanish Socialist Josep Borrell in 2004.

Geremek was a former Polish foreign minister, a leading member of the anti-Communist Solidarity movement and a renowned historian. "Everyone agreed he would have been a good candidate, but he lost," said the contact.

"There are a lot of people who are unhappy with Schulz as a presidential candidate, but the number may be smaller than one thinks."

Both sources said many Socialists themselves were looking for a way to get rid of Schulz, describing his promotion to parliamentary president as a convenient way of removing him from the real running of the centre-left group.

For his part, EPP spokesman Bob Fitzhenry denied there was any chance of centre-right deputies switching their support to a Liberal candidate. "There is an agreement between the two biggest groups and the EPP will honour it," he said.

Razor-edge victory for more lobbying transparency at EP

New rules to force MEPs chairing committees or drafting reports to publish meetings with registered lobbyists took a step closer to reality. The measure was narrowly backed 11 to 10 at the constitutional affairs committee but still needs plenary approval.

Leading MEP defends expenses secrecy

The man tasked with making the EP more transparent has said there are more important issues than making MEP monthly expenses public.

News in Brief

  1. Belgium left with minority government after UN migration pact row
  2. EU court: UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50
  3. UK remains largest arms producer in western Europe
  4. Macron to address French nation in bid to calm tension
  5. Socialists confirm Timmermans as Spitzenkandidat
  6. France to investigate Kremlin influence on 'Yellow Vest' riots
  7. Air passenger transport in EU reaches record high
  8. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wins CDU leadership election

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. France and Germany back Dutch on human rights sanctions
  2. COP24: vital to keep big polluters away from climate policy
  3. EU foot-dragging puts rule of law at risk in Hungary, Poland
  4. Merkel loyalist AKK wins CDU leadership battle
  5. Brexit vote and Merkel's successor top This Week
  6. Brexit, migration, cities - and the UN pact
  7. EU Commission spins half-truth on 'unsafe' refugee boats
  8. COP24 Nordic Pavilion: sharing climate solutions with the world

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us