21st Feb 2019

Poland eyes EU parliament top job at conservative pow-wow

As the EU's centre-right European People's Party leaders gather in Warsaw for a last political rally before the June elections, Poland is trying to secure the top job in the next European Parliament, a post also sought by Italy.

Over 2,500 delegates from EU states and neighbouring countries are expected in the Warsaw Palace of Culture on Wednesday (29 April) for a two-day party congress marking the official start of the electoral campaign for the European elections.

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Beyond political statements and the party manifesto, which is to be adopted on Thursday, EU leaders are also set to discuss the various EU posts to be filled by centre-right candidates, as the EPP is projected to win the June elections and secure the top positions for the EU commission and parliament.

Poland is eyeing the presidency of the European Parliament for former premier Jerzy Buzek, but Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would like to see the position filled by one of his countrymen, Mario Mauro, a history teacher elected to the chamber on the Forza Italia ticket.

Mr Berlusconi arrived in Warsaw one day earlier and held talks with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk. In a press conference after the meeting, they highlighted economic ties and said that on the issue of the president of the parliament, there would be a "friendly competition".

"We have two candidates from the EPP. It will be a very friendly competition. Mr Mauro is a very well prepared candidate and it is very good for members of the EPP to have a choice," Mr Buzek told EUobserver on Tuesday on the margins of the EPP study days organised ahead of the party congress.

In the run-up to the June elections, however, there would be no campaigning within the centre-right family for the various EU jobs, he said.

While keeping expectations low, the former Polish premier said that it would be an important signal for the EU to have a person from a new member state chairing one of its institutions.

"It is time to show that we are together because integration is something else and more than enlargement. It would be a good signal of integration if someone from the new member states would have such a responsible job posting in the European institutions. Signs are important, but it is not absolutely necessary. Without such a sign, we probably can manage as well," he said.

Poland also tried to secure the top job at NATO, but in the end the position was taken by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Backing for Warsaw from Berlin could also be weaker than in the past, when the German delegation by far outnumbered any other nation within the centre-right group. Out of the current 49 MEPs in the EPP-ED group, Germany's centre-right has been predicted to lose around ten seats in the June elections.

With the British Conservatives' announced departure from the EPP-ED group, Italy will most likely become the second-strongest national delegation within the family, especially after Mr Berlusconi's party absorbed the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale.

The Polish delegation is expected to become the third or fourth largest delegation in the group.

The backing of a large and influential delegation is useful, but not absolutely necessary. Neither French centre-right MEP Nicole Fontaine, nor Irish liberal MEP Pat Cox came from the largest or most influential national delegation within their political groups. They both held the presidency of the European Parliament, from 1999-2001 and 2002-2004 respectively.


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