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17th Oct 2021

Leadership race begins among EU liberals

  • With Romanian MEP Dacian Cioloş leaving as group leader, there will be no central Europeans in top leadership positions in the EU institutions (Photo: European Parliament)
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The liberal Renew group will decide on Wednesday (6 October) how to proceed with choosing a new group leader after Romanian MEP Dacian Cioloş said he would resign following his election to lead the USR-PLUS party in his home country.

Cioloş resigned officially at the Renew group meeting on Monday afternoon in Strasbourg, and the group's leadership is expected to decide on the election process on Wednesday.

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Cioloş will remain an MEP.

But he already returned to Bucharest on Monday night, where, on Tuesday, a no-confidence vote is expected to take place against the current government, partly initiated by Cioloş' party.

The USR-PLUS will vote in favour of bringing down the government it helped form in December 2020.

It later left the coalition in September this year, amid disagreements with prime minister Florin Cîțu of the National Liberal Party (PNL).

If the vote is successful, president Klaus Ioannis would need to nominate a new prime minister.

But Cioloş said he did not want to become prime minister and wanted to focus on his party.

"It was a difficult decision to take but the only one possible," Cioloş said during the Renew group meeting, according to a statement.

"The next leader of the group can already count on my full support. Renew Europe is a group that is rich in diversity, a group that is respected and a group that cannot be ignored. I am proud of what we have achieved together", he added.

The interim president of the group will be Dutch MEP Malik Azmani, from the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), who has been serving as the first vice-president of the faction.

Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld from the Democrats 66 party has already announced her candidacy.

"I think I am the best candidate to provide political leadership for this group," she told EUobserver.

"Everybody recognises that there are massive challenges, and the EU needs to change radically. Our group set out with the promise to Renew Europe, and I am best placed to lead the group in the phase [after the pandemic], and fully unlock its potential," the Dutch MEP said.

"We have a very good group holding the key to the majority, we should use it better, become more visible, and we should also strengthen the parliament, which can be more assertive, and it can be more of a democratic watchdog," she said, adding: "It [the election] is not only about personalities, but also about what kind of political leadership and vision you have for the EU, that is also at stake."

Consensus

The group found it hard to choose a leader after European elections in 2019.

With the arrival of French president Emmanuel Macron's large 'En Marche' delegation and their allies, counting 23 deputies out of the 98 liberal MEPs, the group's dynamics have changed.

Cioloş managed to bridge the gap between the traditional side of the group - including VVD, most of the Nordics, and the German FDP party- and with French progressives.

And group insiders thought the challenge will be the same this time: to find a consensus candidate who can build a majority within the group.

The French delegation is expected to put forward its own candidate in the next few days, but it remains to be seen if their leader, MEP Stéphane Séjourné, a Macron ally, will run for leadership.

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