There were three candidates – all three women – for the presidency of the EU Parliament: From Malta, there was Roberta Metsola, David Sassoli’s deputy, a member of the right-wing, conservative EU grouping, PPE. At the other end of the spectrum, there was, proposed by the Greens, Alice Bah Kuhnke, a Swede of Gambian origins, and a Spanish MEP Sira Rego from the Left.
It all happened very fast, this morning at 11 am. The first round of voting resulted in a landslide for Metsola: She got 458 votes or 74% of the total (to win in the first round, she needed a majority); Kuhnke only got 101 votes and Rego even less, just 57.
Metsola’s victory tweet reiterated her attachment to “European values”:
I am humbled by the responsibility entrusted to me today as the President of the European Parliament.
I want to thank my colleagues for their support and fellow candidates Alice Bah Kuhnke & @sirarego
You can count on me to represent the European values our House stands for. 🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/iwdwKpjJGB
— Roberta Metsola MEP (@RobertaMetsola) January 18, 2022
Her speech this morning made her position clear. Metsola laid out her priorities: from modernizing parliamentary practices to encouraging diversity and tolerance.
The words sound good but unfortunately, the EU parliament practices and adherence to European ideals got badly hit this morning: The modernizing rules of deceased President David Sassoli that he had set when he got elected to the EU Parliament presidency in 2019 and that had led, inter alia, to Ursula von de Leyen’s own election were set aside; instead, MEPs from deeply anti-European, populist parties like Italy’s Lega (led by SalviniI) and the Fratelli d’Italia (led by Melloni) were allowed to vote.
As reported by the Huffington Post Italy, the Lega is hoping that its member Mara Bizzotto who heads the Lega delegation at the EU Parliament might become Metsola’s deputy. Bizzotto is well known for her fight against the “canone RAI” (the Italian state TV’s tax on its viewers) and the “made in” labels to defend the agro-food industry.
Who is Roberta Metsola, the anti-abortionist?
Born Tedesco Triccas in Malta in 1979, Roberta Metsola is a relatively young Maltese politician (43 years), wife of a Finnish politician, and mother of four sons. She has been the acting president of the European Parliament since 11 January 2022 and was working with David Sassoli, the previous President now deceased, as his deputy.
Metsola was first elected as a member of the European Parliament in 2013, representing Malta and she is probably best known for her anti-corruption and anti-abortion views. The anti-abortion stance came into full view recently and was picked up by the French media when she voted against abortion laws. Many observers explain it by referring to her origins: Malta has the strictest anti-abortion laws in Europe, not allowing the cessation of pregnancy even in cases of rape and violence and as a Maltese politician, this is something difficult for her to avoid.
She is a lawyer by training and has worked on migration issues. She’s had a long career in Brussels starting in 2009, working with Catherine Ashton as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and First Vice President of the European Commission in the Barroso Commission until 2014.
To be clear, despite raking in votes from anti-European MEPs, Metsola always sounds like a true, committed European, for example, when she recently talked to the European Democrat Students (EDS), an organization where she started her political career, as she explains in this video on Twitter:
“EDS will always have a special place in my heart”
Watch and learn more about her days as a student activist in EDS pic.twitter.com/jw9KIMFScP
— European Democrat Students (@edsnet) January 17, 2022
And Metsola worked with Sassoli for two and a half years – undoubtedly learning the ropes from him.
David Sassoli’s legacy: Stop the EU Council from sidelining the EU Parliament
David Sassoli will be missed not only in Italy but by all committed Europeans. An active Italian journalist-turned-politician in 2009, who unexpectedly died last week, he had been a remarkably active EU Parliament president.
David Sassoli had arrived somewhat by luck at the job of leading the EU Parliament. But after his election, in July 2019 in Strasbourg, he quickly confirmed his managerial and political abilities.
In his two and a half years at the helm of the EU Parliament, Sassoli had to address a broad range of issues. He found himself defending the single market as Brexit tore the UK apart from the EU; protecting the autonomy of the EU from the geopolitical pressures of external giants like Russia and China; opposing the authoritarian shift in Eastern Europe. All this against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic, forcing him to mediate between the need for continuity of parliamentary debates and compliance with safety regulations; he notoriously pushed for the transfer of debates online and the suspension of sessions in Strasbourg.
Throughout, Sassoli ensured that “European solidarity” was expressed in a tangible economic package: the Recovery Fund, the starting point of what would become the Next Generation Eu, a massive 750 billion euro plan.
Under his leadership, the role of the EU Parliament was strengthened, obtaining that the text of the recovery fund, resulting from a negotiation marathon by the European Council, be modified to increase resources while avoiding any concession on respect for the rule of law.
In short, Sassoli’s leadership expressed firm European convictions, combining an unfailing polite approach with a strong determination to reaffirm the founding principles of the EU and the role of Parliament itself.
Europe has three heads: The EU Commission (executive), the European Council (government heads) and the EU Parliament (the people). All too often the Parliament is sidelined by the Council. That is the core of Sassoli’s legacy: The EU Parliament needs to stand up against the other two and make the people’s voice heard. True democracy demands it.
Will Metsola follow in his footsteps and make the EU Parliament fully play its role? One can hope that she is enough of a European and a centrist to do so. The EU Parliament needs to be defended and to have its role strengthened as a representative body of the peoples of Europe. That is the only way to correct the “democracy deficit” that affects European institutions.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — Featured Photo: Metsola has just been elected President (screenshot) Source: France24 video.