Next Parliament head could be Polish or Italian
By Célia Sampol | Thursday 07 May 2009
Who will be the next president of the Parliament for two and a half years? The choice depends on the technical agreement between the political groups to share the speaker’s chair during the five-year term of office.
There are several possibilities. The first, and most likely, would be a deal between the EPP-ED and the PES, as happened for the 2004 to 2009 legislature. The Socialists were the first to head the institution, with Josep Borrell as president from July 2004 to December 2006. Then, in January 2007, the Conservative Hans-Gert Pöttering (Germany), who had, until then, been leader of the EPP-ED, took over. Hence, in the event of a new agreement between the two main groups, the EPP-ED would preside first. There is already talk of a partnership between Jerzy Buzek (EPP-ED, Poland) and Martin Schulz (PES, Germany). Buzek is originally from the Civic Platform, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centre-right party, which is expected to achieve highly respectable results in June. This would give the Polish delegation within the EPP-ED, currently with 15 MEPs, far more importance. Schulz, the president of the PES group, should logically then take over, except if, after the elections, he announces his sights are set on another EU position, such as German commissioner.
But this partnership is not the only one being advanced. With the recent merger between the National Alliance and Forza Italia, the Italian EPP-ED delegation will grow and could gain ten seats. Currently in third place with 24 MEPs, it could even become the largest since the 27 British Conservatives are expected to leave and the German Conservatives, of whom there are 49 today, could lose members as the polls predict. In such a situation, the Italians could pitch for either the presidency of the EPP group or of the Parliament itself. Mario Mauro, Parliament vice-president and a Forza Italia member, is being mentioned as an alternative to Buzek. It is still unclear whether Martin Schulz will accept an agreement with a politician close to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who has left a bitter taste in the mouth. In 2003, Berlusconi heckled Schulz, who was then a mere deputy, calling him “Kapo” in front of the entire assembly. So far, the EPP-ED has not yet chosen between the two candidates. The decision could take place after the elections.
POSSIBLE PLACE FOR ALDE
Another possible technical agreement could be a Conservative-Liberal alliance. Such a scenario has already taken place. In the 1999-2004 legislature, Nicole Fontaine, (EPP-ED, France), the first president, was succeeded by Pat Cox (ALDE, Ireland). A repeat performance cannot be ruled out. During this autumn’s legislative elections in Germany, the grand coalition could break in favour of an alliance between CDU Conservatives and FDP Liberals.
In the Parliament, the Liberals would favour such an agreement. Moreover, they do not oppose the EPP’s candidate as European Commission president, the incumbent José Manuel Barroso. Furthermore, the Liberals have their own parliamentary presidential candidate – the group’s leader, Graham Watson (UK), who is openly campaigning for the position.
A Socialist-Liberal alliance is also possible insofar as they often vote together in the plenary. But they would probably not have a majority. The last possible alliance would be a PES-ALDE-Greens agreement. The Co-President of the Greens, the Franco-German Daniel Cohn-Bendit, has on several occasions appealed for a Socialist to head the Commission (for example, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen of Denmark, president of the Party of European Socialists), while the Greens and the Liberals share the presidency of the Parliament, with, for example, Watson followed by Cohn-Bendit. This would be a first. However, this scenario is unlikely and the Socialists do not even have a candidate for the Commission presidency.
All will be decided after the elections once the various political families have learnt their fate at the hands of the electorate.