Muscat will be fourth new face at EU summit

This week’s European Union summit is expected to see three new faces, apart from Joseph Muscat, Malta’s new Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat waves to jubilant crowds from Castille
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat waves to jubilant crowds from Castille

Elections in Malta and Cyprus, a resignation in Slovenia and an imminent appointment in Bulgaria, will deliver four new faces at the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Joseph Muscat, who was yesterday sworn in as Malta's new Prime Minister, will add to the centre-left influence around the EU table.

In one of his first statements to the media, Muscat said that he would add more weight to the centre-left camp at EU summits. "We want to assure everybody that we are a new, progressive voice around the European table," he told MaltaToday.

The leader of the centre-left Positive Slovenia, Alenka Bratušek, is her country's Prime Minister-designate, likely to forge a government in time for the summit.

In recent years only German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė have provided a touch of colour in the otherwise male-only summit "family photo".

Bratušek, 42, took over following a vote in parliament on 27 February which dismissed the centre-right Prime Minister Janez Janša over a graft case.

In recent months, the dominance of the centre-right European People's Party at EU summits has been eroding. The EPP currently has 13 out of the 27 members of the European Council: Angela Merkel (Germany), Mariano Rajoy (Spain), Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg), Traian Băsescu (Romania), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Donald Tusk (Poland), Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden), Enda Kenny (Ireland), Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia), Antonis Samaras (Greece), Jyrki Katainen (Finland), Pedro Passos Coelho (Portugal) and Nicos Anastasiades (Cyprus).

It was Anastasiades who broke the slimming-down tendency of the EPP group, when the new Cypriot president, elected on 24 February, replaced Demetris Christofias, the only Communist at the EU's highest table.

Anastasiades, who was sworn in on 1 March, is expected to speed up a joint rescue plan by the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the island runs out of cash, potentially derailing the fragile confidence returning to the eurozone. Christofias had rejected the terms proposed for Cyprus' rescue on ideological grounds.

The centre-left Party of European Socialists (PES) is represented by François Hollande (France), Elio di Rupo (Belgium), Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark), Werner Faymann (Austria), Robert Fico (Slovakia), Victor Ponta (Romania), Joseph Muscat (Malta). Alenka Bratušek's party Positive Slovenia is not PES-affiliated, but PES has welcomed the involvement of the Social Democrats (SD) in negotiations for a new centre-left coalition government in Slovenia. Croatia, which is expected to join the Union on 1 July, is already represented at EU summits by its Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, a social-democrat.

The PES group had expected Italy to turn left following elections on 25 February. But although the Democratic Party of Pier Luigi Bersani won a majority in the lower house of parliament, it has no workable majority in the Senate. As the stalemate continues, Italy will be represented at the summit by Mario Monti, in his capacity as caretaker prime minister.

Another country where political uncertainty prevails is Bulgaria. The centre-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov resigned on 20 February following public protests in the capital and several other cities over electricity prices.

The country's President Rosen Plevneliev is expected to appoint a caretaker prime minister today, with early elections due on 12 May. The two political parties which, according to polls, will win most votes are Boyko Borissov's GERB party and the Bulgarian Socialist Party, led by Sergei Stanishev, who is also PES President.

But since many Bulgarians say that they don't recognise themselves in any of the political parties - and protests continue - Stanishev has said he will not take up the prime minister's office even if his party wins the elections.

Plevneliev, who visited Brussels last week, said he will represent the country at this week's EU summit.


After years languishing in the centre-right quagmire, at last the EU is shifting towards the centre-left. Let's hope this shift is reflected in Germany as well in next September's Bundestag elections.
"the slimming-down tendency of the EPP" ? ? Are they (i.e. the EPP) on a diet now ? !