CAN A WEAK PRESIDENT MAKE THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT STRONGER?
Antonio Tajani’s election as president of the European Parliament was not greeted with much enthusiasm.
MEPs were so uninspired by his candidacy, it took four whole rounds of voting for them to muster up the motivation to elect him in Strasbourg yesterday.
A former spokesman of Silvio Berlusconi, one of Europe’s most despised leaders, Tajani enjoyed two successive mandates at the European Commission – first in charge of transport, then industry – where he left few fond memories.
His command of his portfolios was considered weak and he is an unconvincing public speaker.
It is his discretion and lack of personal ambition that have served him best in the past. Tajani does not try to hide that fact.
Unlike his predecessor Martin Schulz, who led a very political presidency, Tajani’s goal is more modest – he wants to be a kind of spokesman for MEPs.
The Parliament has clearly plumped for a weak president. The real power in Strasbourg is now shifting firmly into the hands of political parties and the Conference of Presidents.
The other highlight of yesterday’s election is the official collapse of the “Grand Coalition” between the Socialists (S&D) and the centre-right Conservatives (EPP), which puts an end to the cosy, pro-European consensus across party lines.
The result is a divided Parliament, regrouped around the main political families, which will probably be more unpredictable and prone to heckling than under the presidency of Martin Schulz.
Expect much more vigorous debates than before, with clearer divisions between the right and left, notably on the economy, or questions such as Brexit, where MEPs will have to vote at the end of the negotiation process.
While parliamentary debates will probably become more entertaining as a result, it remains to be seen whether Europe itself will emerge strengthened or weakened under Tajani’s watch.
But the early signs don’t give much cause for optimism.
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Views are the author’s.