Europe

EU Parliament’s Socialists want to keep hold of presidency, nix deal with center right


European Parliament President David Sassoli doesn’t want to hand his job over to a member of the main conservative bloc, he told fellow Socialist MEPs Tuesday, despite a deal in place for that to happen.

MEPs will choose their next president on January 18, and Sassoli is believed to be seeking a second term, although he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy.

If the Socialists back Sassoli’s stance, it would mean going back on a 2019 deal after the election that year with the conservative European People’s Party that foresaw Sassoli relinquishing the top Parliament job to the EPP at the end of a two-and-half-year term. The EPP is already preparing to take over the presidency and its MEPs will vote for one of three candidates — Roberta Metsola, Esther de Lange and Othmar Karas — on Wednesday.

In his comments to MEPs on Tuesday, Sassoli made clear that the Socialists had won elections in many European countries of late, particularly in Germany, and “we have the possibility to get out of the austerity nightmare,” his spokesperson said.

Electing a member of the EPP as Parliament president before the 2024 European election “would be a political error at a moment when, in Europe, we are at an advantage as a political family,” the Italian told MEPs. “It is unacceptable for us to be led to European elections by a circle of conservatives,” Sassoli added.

Sassoli did not explicitly speak about his own reelection bid. But he said he was “at the service of my group.”

Despite a month-long bout of pneumonia that kept him in Italy, Sassoli’s plans for reelection have been an open secret. He is said to be frustrated because so much of his term has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including overseeing the introduction of complex measures for MEPs and staff.

On Tuesday, several MEPs made clear they would support him in a reelection bid.

Ismail Ertug, a German MEP, said he was “100 percent” behind Sassoli, and his Swedish counterpart Jytte Guteland praised Sassoli for having managed the Parliament in an “optimal way” during the crisis, the spokesperson said.

Sassoli was elected in July 2019 thanks to a “top jobs” package that saw the EPP’s Ursula von der Leyen become president of the European Commission and Charles Michel, championed by the centrist Renew Europe group, take charge at the European Council.

But Socialist MEPs and parliamentary officials have increasingly questioned the legitimacy of the deal, which has meant less clout and prestige for Europe’s second-largest political force. The only other prominent Socialist in the EU’s top leadership is foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Whether there is a majority in the Parliament to support a Socialist candidate is unclear. His parliamentary group said Tuesday they will start negotiating with all “pro-European groups” in the European Parliament.




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