Sassoli decision not to run for EP president removes stumbling block for Metsola

Decision by European socialists not to present candidate for EP president means Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola (EPP) is closer to clinch the top post with backing from liberals Renew

Roberta Metsola is currently the first Vice President of the European Parliament and the European People's Party's candidate for EP president
Roberta Metsola is currently the first Vice President of the European Parliament and the European People's Party's candidate for EP president

European Parliament President David Sassoli will not run for re-election in January, and neither will socialists group S&D present any candidate for the presidency.

Sassoli told MEPs at a meeting on Tuesday evening that he did not “want to destroy the European front” represented by the parliament’s largest political blocs.

The decision means Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, running as the candidate from the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), could steam ahead to clinch the top post with the help of her political group as well as liberals Renew.

Sassoli and other S&D leaders however made it clear that their group would not necessarily back Metsola, Politico.eu reported. Instead, the group will try to negotiate a deal with the EPP “and condition the vote to Metsola,” one S&D official said.

Socialist MEPs could also decide to vote against Metsola.

The S&D has 145 seats out of 705, while the Greens are 68 and The Left, 39. The EPP has 187 seats, while Renew, 98; right-wing conservatives ECR has 63;  the extreme right (ID), 75 seats.

Heads of political groups have their say on next EP president and candidates

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.

Maltese Labour MEP Alfred Sant has previously said it was “unacceptable” for the socialists that the European right and centrists now had its representatives installed as presidents of the European Commission, European Council, the presidency of the Ecofin group of eurozone finance ministers, and the head of European Central Bank.

“The socialists insist – and I feel they are right – that the highest leadership roles in the EU will have the least of socialist representation, compared with that of centre-right,” Sant said.

S&D leader Iratxse García Pérez yesterday said the S&D was seeking “political balance and good leadership of the institution.... we have a very clear idea of our priorities to pick up the gauntlet of the very many challenges facing Europe.”

In contrast, the European Left is proposing a feminist candidate, Spanish MEP Sira Rego, which they insist marks a break from ‘system candidates’. Co-president Manon Aubry said Rego was a feminist candidate “marking a clear break from the system candidates 40 years on from the presidency of Simone Veil... she will stand against a candidate who is anti-abortion”, referring to Metsola.

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 French MEP 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.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

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 European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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