My discontent about the lack of choice about the future President of the European Commission is well known. But it seems – bizarrely – that the choice of the President of the European Parliament might actually become a bit more interesting. President of the EP is a largely symbolic role, chairing the sessions and with some external representation tasks. Perhaps the election intrigue is a manifestation of the old Henry Kissinger quote that “university European Parliament politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small”?
Anyway, so what’s going on? Essentially the President of the EP is usually a tie-up between the 2 main political groups in the Parliament, the EPP-ED and PSE. Each gets the Parliament President for about two and a half years of the five year parliamentary term. Josep Borrell, a socialist, preceeded Hans-Gert Pöttering, a christian democrat, in the current term.
For the 2009-2014 term the socialists want to put forward tub-thumper Martin Schulz, but as a German national he cannot follow Pöttering. So the EPP-ED will get the first call – if tradition is respected. Former Polish PM Jerzy Buzek was the most likely candidate, although now Silvio Berlusconi – with the additional backing of Alleanza Nationale in the EPP, want their own man – Mario Mauro. See this from Euractiv that explains the games.
Then there’s the overall issue of how the President should be selected and whether – shock horror(!) – the person to do the job should actually be a good candidate! Leader of the ALDE Group, Graham Watson, has put his hat in the ring, saying he will run to be President of the Parliament, and won’t tolerate the old carve up. I’ve met Watson a few times, and while I don’t agree with his policies all the time, I think he’s a sharp and interesting guy. He’s also received some backing from Borrell, and Polish MEP and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (who is from the same party as Buzek).
So let’s see what happens… The process will end up being opaque and tied up in the metaphorical smoke filled rooms, but at least there is a bit of discussion and a few candidates – more than can be said about the Commission at the moment.