Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, of the EPP, was elected yesterday president of the European Parliament by the plenary of the House. Spain’s Sira Rego, of The Left, came in third.
Roberta Metsola won the election in the first round, in which she obtained an absolute majority of the votes (458 out of a total of 616 valid votes), thanks to the support of Popular, Socialists and Liberals, in a secret ballot. In any case, the victory of the EPP candidate follows, in part, the script established in June 2019, when the Italian socialist David Sassoli was appointed president. On that occasion, the distribution of top posts agreed a few days earlier by the extraordinary European Council facilitated the victory of the Socialist candidate and made it virtually a given that he would be replaced by the candidate of the European People’s Party as soon as his term of office ended. Sassoli died unexpectedly on January 11, but the end of his term of office was in any case scheduled for this January.
Yesterday’s proceedings began with the decision of ultra-conservative Polish MEP Kosma Złotowski (ECR) to withdraw his candidacy, leaving only three candidates – Metsola, Alice Bah Kuhnke (Greens/EFA, Sweden), who came second, with 101 votes, and Sira Rego, who came third, with 57. Sira Rego, from Izquierda Unida, already presented her candidacy for the presidency of the European Parliament in June 2019, when David Sassoli was elected for a two-and-a-half-year term. In that vote, Rego obtained 43 votes, far below the 345 of the Italian Socialist MEP.
Metsola will preside over the EP during the second half of the legislature, until the constitution of a new Chamber after the 2024 elections. Born in Malta in 1979, Roberta Metsola, MEP since 2013, will be the youngest president in the history of the European Parliament (Spain’s Enrique Baron Crespo was elected when he was 45) and the third woman to preside over the European Parliament, after Simone Veil (1979-1982) and Nicole Fontaine (1999-2002). Roberta Metsola had held the EP’s first vice-presidency since November 2020 and served as acting president following the sudden death of President David Sassoli.
In an address to the House following her election, Metsola paid tribute to the “legacy of President David Sassoli: he was a fighter, he fought for Europe and for us, for this Parliament.” “I will honor him by defending Europe, our common values of democracy, dignity, justice, solidarity, equality, rule of law and fundamental rights,” she continued.
“I want people to regain the feeling of belief and enthusiasm for our project,” she said. “Dear Europeans, in the coming years, people across Europe will look to our institution for leadership and direction, while others will continue to test the limits of our democratic values and European principles,” she continued. “We must combat the anti-EU narrative that spreads with such ease and speed,” she warned. “Disinformation and misinformation, amplified during the pandemic, fuel cynicism and the easy solutions of nationalism, authoritarianism, protectionism, and isolationism,” the new president added.
“Europe is about just the opposite, about defending each other, about bringing people even closer together, about defending the principles of our founding fathers and mothers that have brought us from the ashes of war and holocaust to peace, hope and prosperity,” concluded Metsola, who also recalled her two predecessors in office: “Twenty years ago, Nicole Fontaine was elected twenty years after Simone Veil; it will not be another two decades before another woman occupies this position again.”
The president has broad executive and representative powers and to preside over the deliberations of the Parliament and ensure its proceedings. Since the first European elections by universal suffrage in 1979, each president has held office for a renewable term of two and a half years. This means that, under normal conditions, there are two presidents in each legislature. Since the creation of the Parliament in 1952, there have been 31 presidents, of whom 17 have presided over the House after 1979.