The EU press corps that travelled to Strasbourg to witness the first chamber meeting of the new parliament were caught by surprise as the European Council’s top jobs package caused a meltdown.
“We know this is for the Parliament to decide on the names. Our intention is to have a president of the parliament from the S&D for the first term, and a candidate from the EPP for the second term. But this is our political opinion. All of the leaders underlined that it is only for the Parliament to decide,” said European Council President Donald Tusk as he presented the package to journalists in Brussels after the third consecutive day of talks in the Belgian capital.
Even though the leaders have no ability to dictate what the composition of the European Parliament will be, the political group and geographical balance brought Bulgaria’s Sergei Stanishev, president of the Party of European Socialists, into the equation.
After a long meeting in Strasbourg, the Socialists appeared divided over the package that the leaders announced in Brussels. The compromise between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the chief negotiator for the Socialist family, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Stanishev was a compromise candidate for the EPP, with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov throwing his full backing behind his candidacy. “We will strongly support him,” he said, adding that Stanishev’s own party was not in favour of putting his name forward. “A Bulgarian at such a high position is a question of honour and pride. Despite the fact that his own people don’t like him.”
Stanishev’s candidacy was meant to fail after Germany’s Social Democratic Party staged a successful revolt against Merkel’s package that led to her having to abstain from her country’s vote at the Council table. The newly-elected S&D group leader Iratxe García had instead proposed an Italian MEP from the Partito Democratico, David-Maria Sassoli, as the new European Parliament President.
SPD MEPs are against Garcia’s proposal and are set to oppose the Italian candidate. Instead, they are more likely to vote for Sassoli’s rival from the Green party, Ska Keller. The remaining candidates are Sira Rego of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left party and Jan Zahradil of the European Conservatives and Reformists.
Voting for the European Parliament’s new President and Vice-Presidents will take place on Thursday morning.