European Parliament President skirts questions on Roberta Metsola’s ‘anti-abortion’ stance

Left wing groups are uncomfortable with having an ‘anti-abortion’ EP president

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola with EP president David Sassoli
Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola with EP president David Sassoli

The President of the European Parliament side-stepped questions on whether he feels comfortable having Roberta Metsola, an ‘anti-abortion’ MEP, succeed him in his role.

During his final press conference as EP president, David Sassoli said he was proud of all the economic provisions and developments that passed through parliament under his watch.

On having an anti-abortion successor, Sassoli said “we will enter into negotiations”, in reference to the S&D group.

The socialist group is yet to put forward candidate for the EP presidency as talks are underway between the major blocs on whether to support the centre-right’s Roberta Metsola for president.

Sassoli was elected to the House presidency in 2019 as part of a ‘rotational’ deal to have socialists take the presidency for the first half of the legislature.

However, Europe’s socialist MEPs said it will not give up the presidency of the parliament without any concessions from the European People’s Party, which Metsola forms part of.

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

At the press conference, Sassoli said that he always sought to broaden this parliamentary majority, such as by bringing in the Greens.

He remarked that other groups didn’t seem interested in this. Regardless, “after discussions conclude in around a month or so we will know who is president”.

“One of the ways to strengthen our democratic system is to give the European Parliament the right of initiative. This is the starting point to have a democratic and parliamentary system that actually works”.

Sassoli asked rhetorically if a democracy could truly function if it just postpones problems for later, down the road. “If everyone has the right to condition or stop choices being made I don’t think that's very effective or efficient.”

“There are different ways of getting organized but reforming our treaties might allow us to have a better functioning system in the EU.”

Earlier on, Sassoli highlighted defense, digital and innovation sectors as areas earmarked for development going forward. However, he did not explicitly state what the challenges would be.

 On COVID-19, Sassoli said he and his colleagues were happy to have adopted the green pass in such a short timeframe. Nonetheless, Sassoli was critical of the EU situation overall.

“Europe doesn’t have the capacity to address COVID-19 issues early and quickly,” he said. Intead, Sassoli called for progress towards a common health union. “The German presidency focused on this but it has now been delayed. Now everyone seems to be doing their own thing.”

The President emphasised the need to make the EU more efficient and effective with regards to human health matters. “We got out of the mad cow disease epidemic in 2001 with a common animal health policy. The same should be done at the EU and global level to deal with this problem”.

Sassoli also responded to criticism directed at him from Philippe Lamberts, head of the Green group. He defended his handling of the pandemic as EP president, noting that the European Parliament was the only parliament in the world that managed to do remote working.

“I’m sure Lamberts is like Merlin the wizard - he would have done much better than me. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, we have freedom of speech in the EU.”

Lastly, Sassoli sees no concern that his work on strengthening the European Parliament would fall by the wayside once he left.

 “It's a bottom up project, we've involved lots of MEPs. The conclusions were very interesting on several fronts, and a pathway has been laid down for other bodies to look at and work on these recommendations. People have evaluated it positively.”

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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