European Parliament leadership: a center-right case

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“Italian conservative Antonio Tajani is the new president of the European Parliament. He managed to beat his competitor, Gianni Pittella, in a final run-off vote by 351 votes to 282”. This is what the news report at the 17th of January 2017, right after the    election outcome. The European Parliament has a new President, the profile of whom is worth investigating.

This historic victory brought the center-right on top of the EU law-making body, the European Parliament. The election of Mr. Tajani gives his European group, the European People’s Party, control of the three main EU institutions – the European Commission, Council and Parliament. With more legislative clout, the parliament has an ever bigger impact on EU decision-making. In a very crucial period, facing the Brexit, the refugee crisis, security, bank and energy affairs, as well as determining the EU budget and other capital market issues, Brussels is supposed to enact very sensitive laws. Given this tough situation in Europe, the center-right cleavage has the support of the Liberals and Democrats by forming a “coalition of ideas”, as Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the ALDE group stated. There is an urgent need in pro-European cooperation, especially to function as a mound against the populist and nationalist forces in the Parliament. For this reason, the pact between the EU  Christian Democrats and Liberals also call for “new, ambitious trade agreements,” a deepening of the European single market, improved governance of the 19-nation euro, Europe’s emissions-trading system development in order to fight climate change, and security and defense initiatives. In terms of security, it is agreed to reinforce EU police cooperation by establishing a new committee. Specifically on Brexit, the EU Parliament will have the final say on whether to approve a deal with the UK, under a center right presidency. After all, it is the first time in more than 10 years that an EPP-liberal partnership sidelined the S&D in the Parliament.

Center- right records victory in elections owing to its representative, a former spokesman for Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and an ex-European commissioner, Mr. Antonio Tajani. He has already enjoyed in the past a long and highly lucrative career in Italian and European politics. He was one of the founding members of “Forza Italia”, a  liberal-conservative, centre-right party best known for producing the Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. Since 1994, the new elected President has been nominated as an Member of the European Parliament 4 times and now will head the EU Institution for the next 2 ½ years. After having served as EU Commissioner for transport and industry/entrepreneurship, his reputation was damaged after he was involved in a scandal with the Volkswagen, but still other initiatives, like the “Horizon 2020” make up his profile. Among Tajani’s priorities are low carbon technologies, climate and the circular economy, as well as new digital and data technologies, research and innovation with money from European regional funds as well as the European Fund for Strategic Investment. The fact that his election came on the day Theresa May outlined her plans for Britain to leave the European Union, Mr. Tajani could not neglect to refer to a “very balanced solution” by “defending the rights of the Europe” and by thinking that “in the future the UK will be an important partner”. A moderate approach on Brexit can assure a soft divorce, after Theresa May triggers Article 50. On economic affairs, Mr. Tajani advocates youth employment aiming to reduce public debt, while on social affairs, he seems to be a strong supporter of gender equality. But, in general, what really matters for Antonio Tajani, is his commitment to represent everyone in the Parliament by putting forward the views of the Parliament to the Council, because, as he stated, he has no certain political agenda. Parliament is the one to pass or amend laws within the Union. Speaking after the results, Tajani dedicated his success to the victims of the 2016 earthquake in Italy and called on unity in Europe.

The European Parliament has chosen its representative within the EU and internationally. Antonio Tajani is undoubtedly a political personality equipped with experience and knowledge and thus his presidency is going to be effective for the European Union. Or at least we hope so, given that the relations between center-right and center-left in the European Parliament have been destabilized, creating obstacles in the compromise of the decision-making process.

S.Christofyllidis

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