Yesterday, on the 18th of January, the European Parliament elected Roberta Metsola as its new President. A lawyer specialising in EU law, Metsola succeeds David Sassoli who sadly passed away last week. She is not only the third woman to head the legislative body, after Simone Veil in the 1980s and Nicole Fontaine in the early 2000s, but also the first Maltese to take over one of the top three EU jobs, as these roles have traditionally been filled by citizens of larger countries or from one of the founding Member States.
Though she ended up winning the vote in a landslide, her designation was initially controversial among some MEPs due to her past opposition to abortion, including in some parliamentary resolutions. However, she has vowed to represent the majority’s position on the matter as President, being elected with 458 votes out of the 705 MEPs.
Her election was the result of an overarching agreement between the three largest groups in the Parliament: her centre-right European People’s Party, the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, and the centrist Renew Europe. The accord sets out the priorities of the legislative chamber for the remaining 2 and a half years of its current term. In this regard, Metsola has emphasised the need to increase cooperation across the political divide.
The groups have agreed on an ambitious programme, which includes defending fundamental rights and the rule of law. This may lead to confrontation with the leaders of some Member States, in particular Hungary and Poland, who have been accused of undermining the rule of law. On climate, the three signatories promised to move forward with the Green Deal proposals, describing them as a “landmark opportunity”.
On health, they agreed to continue to push for cooperation between countries, particularly on cancer research, and on the creation of a “European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA)”.
They also vowed to adopt the DMA and the DSA and to create “a truly European digital market that fully respects fundamental rights and data protection”. They committed to several ambitious proposals on economic and social issues, including a new fund on strategic investments in key technologies as part of the EU’s industrial strategy and the adoption of the Directive on adequate minimum wages.
Furthermore, MEPs intend to reinforce the powers of the Parliament by giving it the “right to initiate legislation” and by scrutinising the implementation of existing legislation. They also promised to deliver on citizens’ demands at the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The new President Metsola has had a strong presence in EU public affairs over the past decade. She worked as a legal Attaché at the Maltese Permanent Representation in Brussels for 8 years. She also worked as a legal advisor to Catherine Anniston, the former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
At Instinctif, we welcome the boldness of the accord, yet we caution against precipitating important decisions based on the given timeline of two and a half years only. Some of the aforementioned aims might require consensus-building with other institutions, Member States, and civil society.
But one thing is clear: Metsola’s victory illustrates the changing dynamics both within the Parliament and among EU’s leadership, in which we, at Instinctif, look forward to navigating.
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