Left wants unity candidate against ‘anti-abortion’ Roberta Metsola for presidency

Socialists still undecided on candidature for EP president, Left advances feminist candidate, some Renew MEPs uncomfortable with ‘anti-abortion’ EP president

Roberta Metsola (left) and Left candidate Sira Rego
Roberta Metsola (left) and Left candidate Sira Rego

The European Parliament’s socialist group has not yet taken a decision to put forward a candidate for the presidency of the EP, as talks continue between major blocs on whether to support the centre-right’s Roberta Metsola for president.

A guarded response came from S&D president Iratxe García Pérez, who said any decision by the socialists would be a “collective and transparent one”, but that the group also had its own “ambitious objectives” to achieve.

The EPP expects the S&D to respect a rotational deal to have the five-year presidency split equally between the centre-left and the centre-right. But the socialists disagree in principle.

[WATCH] Socialists will not give up European Parliament presidency without a fight

While refusing to give anything away, García Pérez said the S&D was seeking “political balance and good leadership of the institution.... the first people to tell you what we’ve decided will be the MEPs, so as far as that meeting is concerned I don’t want to go into any detail yet regarding our group’s position.”

Asked whether it would be a failure for the S&D to achieve a majority backing for a potential candidate, especially with the centre-left’s victory in German elections and the alliance with the Greens in the new Scholz administration, García Pérez shrugged off the suggestions. “The EP should operate in autonomy, it shouldn’t be buffeted by the political storms at regional level, so we think that the traffic-light coalition is fantastic news for Germany and for Europe. but the European institutions have no responsibility to reflect the makeup of any national governments.”

She also said she did not want to see things in terms of victories and defeats. “I think it’s premature... we have a very clear idea of our priorities to pick up the gauntlet of the very many challenges facing Europe.”

Left: feminist candidate

In contrast, the European Left is proposing a feminist candidate which they insist marks a break from ‘system candidates’.

With neither the S&D nor the Greens having made a clear choice to push forward a candidate for EP president, co-president Martin Schirdewan said Spanish MEP Sira Rego could unit both the centre-left and eco-socialists groups in the EP.

“They both have not made a choice so far, saying they were currently seeking concessions before deciding on a candidate that units the left and centre-left bloc in the EP,” Schirdewan said.

Co-president Manon Aubry added that Rego was a feminist candidate “marking a clear break from the system candidates 40 years on from the presidency of Simone Veil... now we have a candidate who is in favour of abortion.”

Aubry said Rego would be standing “against a candidate who is anti-abortion”, referring to Roberta Metsola.

Renew MEP brings up abortion problem

According to Agence Europe, Roberta Metsola was questioned about her anti-abortion stance by several MEPs from the Renew Europe group, notably from France. 

It was Bernard Guetta (brother to the world-famous DJ...) who was said to have “set the scene” during an internal meeting with centrist MEPs from the Renew Group, by announcing that he would not vote for Metsola, which he said could be interpreted as a regression of women’s rights. “Some recalled that one of the two women who chaired the European Parliament, the French Simone Veil, had fought for the legalisation of abortion in her country despite her party’s position,” Agence Europe said. 

Metsola was reported to have said that as representative of the Parliament, her speech would be unambiguous on the issue, and that she said it was possible to separate the European view, and overtly anti-abortion position in Malta, and defend the majority positions of the EP in inter-institutional relations. 

Metsola was reported to have convinced MEPs on the defence of rule of law, implementing the European Green Deal, and fundamental rights. 

Metsola is proposing the creation of a European network of young women leaders, which would be responsible to put forward ideas on how to help women reach leadership positions in their countries. 

“The overall impression left by Ms Metsola seems to be rather positive, as she is appreciated for her experience and ability to shape transparent compromises, as was the case for the Parliament’s report on SLAPP proceedings against journalists,” Agence Europe said.

EPP leader: Metsola will respect majority opinions

The European People’s Party president Manfred Weber said Metsola would respect the majority opinions of the House. “She is not just an EPP member... it would not be wise to start with a party-political conflict at European level. Let’s keep this constructive, pro-European progressive majority in the EP together... socialists, Renew and the EPP, because only together can we achieve things up until 2024. This is our offer: don’t split this majority, let’s work together.”

Greens: Lambert calls out ‘bullshit’

The Greens’ co-president Ska Keller said her group wants a candidate who could represent a feminist and diverse EP.

“We should have a woman at the head of the European Parliament, it’s high time,” Keller said.

But when asked whether Metsola fulfils these preconditions, Keller said: “Roberta Metsola is certainly a woman, so that’s hitting the mark; on the other issues we’re also very happy to enter into talks with her and see what her proposals would be on that, so we’re treating everyone equally and fairly and we’re just looking for who we have the most convergence with, who will offer the most progress on issues...”

The Greens discounted however the chances of representing a similar ‘traffic-light’ coalition to mimick the newly-installed German administration.

“We are completely free. Do we rule out voting for Metsola? I think Ska is very clear that we do not; we do not rule out voting for the S&D either... first they need a candidate and tear up the pact,” co-president Philip Lambert said.

But he lambasted press reports of a Greens-EPP agreement as “bullshit”.

“It’s a lie, it is a completely made-up story that was never cross-checked... in any case it is a sign of shitty journalism.”

The right-wing ECR will nominate Polish conservative Kosma Złotowski. 

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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