We spent this morning casting our votes for the President of the European Parliament, an important position, the holder of which chairs the meetings of the European Parliament and is often seen as the public face of the European Parliament to the outside world. Many are those who aspire to its lofty height, but as ever few are chosen. Thise who do arrive usually get there by a mixture of ambition and stealth and almost always as a result of deals made in backrooms between the political groups.
This time the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) has carved the position up with the European People’s Party (EPP) the centre-right group, still the largest group in the Parliament even though the Tories have left to set up on their own with a few cronies. The deal was that the EPP have the President for the first half of the parliamentary term and the socialists/democrats for the second two and a half years. So it’s now the turn of the EPP until the end of December 2011.
This is all very well except that the President of the Parliament is elected by MEPs by secret ballot – the very process we have been taking part in today. There were, in fact, two candidates, which I suppose was some kind of nod in the direction of democracy: Polish Jerzy Buzek from the EPP and Eva-Britt Svensson, a Swedish MEP from the GUE (left green) group. I have worked with Eva-Britt for many years on the Women’s Committee where she has done much good work, including gaining the backing of the European Parliament for the UNIFEM campaign against violence against women. Eva-Britt demonstrated her commitment to women’s rights by talking about the subject in her address to the Parliament prior to the vote.
Yet the forces behind the deals won out in the end by a very substantial margin – Mr Buzek had 555 votes to Eva-Britt’s 89. This is the full story according to the European Parliament news service