A presidency with strings: what the 'Big Three' agreed to for Roberta Metsola’s win

The European Parliament’s ‘Big Three’ groupings – the centre-right EPP, socialists S&D, and liberals Renew – signed a midterm agreement the night before Roberta Metsola’s big win in Strasbourg

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola (left) and S&D president Iratxe García Perez (right)
European Parliament president Roberta Metsola (left) and S&D president Iratxe García Perez (right)

The European Parliament’s ‘Big Three’ groupings – the centre-right EPP, socialists S&D, and liberals Renew – signed a midterm agreement the night before Roberta Metsola’s big win in Strasbourg.

The S&D were first to reveal the backroom deal on Twitter, saying the agreement will ensure a stable working majority until 2024 elections.

The document lays out the political priorities of the three groups until 2024, the most glaring of which is the safeguarding and promotion of women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive health – across Europe.

Inclusion of such a statement as its first point was a guarantee required to have Metsola, who has repeatedly voted against documents and clauses referring to abortion as a right, elected. This was the sticking issue in an otherwise straightforward campaign to become president.

Socialist MEPs in particular were concerned about her conservative views on abortion, as well as a cohort of French MEPs.

Monday’s agreement allowed Metsola to secure the presidency with an absolute majority in the first and only round of voting. S&D, and likely many French MEPs, agreed to back Metsola only after the Big Three committed themselves to the priority areas outlined in the deal.

When Metsola was elected EPP candidate for the role, S&D president Iratxe Garcia Perez warned that the socialists would be demanding political balance inside the European institutions.

On one hand, the S&D had to respect a rotational pact to split the EP presidency between the two major political blocs. On the other hand, foregoing the presidency means that the EPP enjoys representation at the helm of two major EU institutions – the European Commission and European Parliament – while liberal Renew has Charles Michel as president of the European Council.   

S&D were not left completely empty-handed. The socialists secured five from 14 vice presidential posts, the chairmanship of the Conference of Committee Chairs, and the presidency of a COVID committee.

Among the other priority areas outlined by the Big Three is the fight for rule of law, specifically by making sure that the EU’s Conditionality Regulation, which allows for the suspension of EU funds to member states that breach rule of law, is activated without delay when needed.

The EP had in fact submitted a lawsuit against the European Commission for its failure to apply the Conditionality Regulation in the Court of Justice.

All three parties further agreed to supporting the implementation of the OECD agreement on taxation while working to develop an innovation culture, trying to match the US in cultivating companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook.

On foreign affairs, the three groupings seem set on building a European Defence Union and a strong partnership with NATO. One clause insists on an upgraded mandate and resources for Frontex, Europol and other security entities. The same section also calls for a new Security Pact to provide for better coordination among Member States.

Unsurprisingly, all three agreed to conferring more powers onto the European Parliament, specifying that it be given the right to initiate legislation. They want Ursula von der Leyen to uphold her commitment to initiate legislation whenever a legislative initiative report is adopted, while ensuring transparency standards and democratic control over international negotiations.

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

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