Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

New EU parliament president promises to ruffle feathers

  • Martin Schulz (l) giving his victory speech to plenary in Strasbourg (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Martin Schulz has promised to live up to his reputation as something of a political bruiser in his new role as European Parliament president, with references to his "temper" and "strength of personality" featuring in post-election appraisal speeches by colleagues.

The German Socialist MEP was elected to the largely ceremonial post after one round of voting Tuesday morning (17 January), gaining 387 of the 699 votes cast.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Although the outcome was virtually pre-ordained given the agreement between the Socialist and the centre-right EPP to divide the 5-year presidency, Schulz was clearly emotional as he told the chamber that his family, his former primary school teacher and members of his youth football team were all present to witness the vote.

Schulz, who differs enormously in style to his emollient predecessor - centre-right Pole Jerzy Buzek - promised that he was "not going to be an amenable president."

His first battle will be to secure his own presence at future euro summits, the precise make-up of which is still being debated by the drafters of the new intergovernmental treaty on fiscal discipline.

Schulz pledged to be a president for all 735 of his colleagues - making those who voted for him "proud" and those who did not "pleasantly surprised."

While most of the political speeches in reaction to the Germany deputy's election were good-natured, some sounded like veiled references to his hot temper.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, himself on the receiving end of past plenary tongue-lashing by Schulz, referred to his "strong personality."

Green MEP Rebecca Harms called him a "fantastic parliamentarian." She also hoped that his "special personal capacities" or "the harsher sides of you that have sometimes made it very difficult to work with you" will still feature in his relations with EU politicians despite his new office.

Veiled references were done away with by eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage, who thrives on provocation. Farage wondered if Schulz will be a "dignified, calm" president or the "Martin Schulz [who is] snarling, angry and unable to control his temper."

For his part, President Schulz quickly showed his combative nature.

Speaking to press after his election on Monday, he took Hungarian leader Viktor Orabn to task for his controversial right-wing reforms and dubbed as "remarkable behaviour" Orban's announcement that he will speak to MEPs in plenary on Wednesday before the assembly had even accepted his request.

He also responded to a German's journalist's question about his temperament with an off-mic joke, saying he would make some "noise" during his two and a half years in the post.

Ghost of Berlusconi past

Schulz - not shy of criticising EU leaders for taking decisions behind closed doors - was challenged on the question of hypocrisy after his own election was sewn up the same way.

But he rejected the parallels, saying MEPs engaged in a "free vote".

Meanwhile, even on his big day, Schulz has not managed to shake off his political nemesis - former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who catapulted the German politician to fame in 2003 by publicly comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Asked by press on Monday if he should send Berlusconi an ironic letter of thanks for helping his career, Schulz sighed that he got the Berlusconi question every day.

"I have a limited wish to meet up with Berlusconi," he said, adding that the feeling is probably mutual.

Officials study futurology of EU parliament

The EU parliament is looking at how its 736 deputies and 6,000 staff should prepare for novelties such as Internet-politics, multilateralism and enhanced legal powers.

Confrontation is the only way, new EP chief says

Confrontation with member states is the only way to get the European Parliament noticed and to stamp out MEPs' reputation as "useless human beings," its new chief Martin Schulz says.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority

Although the governing Socialists Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday's elections, the political deadlock continues with a deeply-fragmented scenario, in which the far-right Vox party is in a strong position while the centre has become irrelevant.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  2. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  3. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected
  4. Germany: Tehran should hold dialogue with protesters
  5. US ex-diplomat: Trump's 'historical mistake' on EU
  6. France's MoDem finance director indicted on EP funds
  7. Cyprus hopes for reunification talks in December
  8. Russian link to €406m crypto disappearance

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us