The European Parliament grand coalition between the right-wing European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialist and Democrats (S&D group) is over and cannot be re-established, said its chief, Gianni Pittella, today (13 December) during a news conference in Strasbourg.
euractiv.com reported in September that a dispute over who should be appointed as the next president of the EU Assembly, as well as disagreement about austerity-driven policies, had put the two biggest political parties in the Parliament on a collision course that endangered the ‘grand coalition’.
In July 2014, the EPP and S&D made an agreement to share the presidency of the Parliament over the five-year term. Martin Schulz benefited from two terms at the helm largely because the EPP saw it as fair that the socialists would have one of the three top jobs in the EU institutions.
Earlier this month, Pittella announced his candidature to run for president, claiming that Schulz’s decision to return to German politics would leave the socialists “unrepresented” in the EU top posts.
According to sources, Pittella’s bid was coordinated in terms of an “overall strategy” with socialist EU leaders including French President François Hollande, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, and his Greek colleague Alexis Tsipras.
Greek Minister for Marine and Island Policy Panagiotis Kouroumblis recently told EURACTIV Greece that Pittella’s decision to run for the Parliament presidency was a move in the right direction because “a monopoly of the European right in the European Union’s top institutions should be avoided”.
“With Pittella as president of European Parliament, austerity will come a step closer to its end,” the leftist politician said.
Left-wing leaders from Europe’s south are making efforts to forge an anti-austerity alliance and promote their own agenda at EU level. They have already met once in Athens and the next meeting is expected to take place in Portugal.
On the other hand, the right-wing EPP claims that deals should be respected and that the S&D is well represented in the EU institutions.
“They have Ms Mogherini, they wanted that post and they also got another vice-president of the European Commission. These things were all known and negotiated in the beginning of the term. I don’t know why now some socialists say we don’t have any representation […] I am sorry but this is not true,” Pedro López de Pablo, the EPP’s head of communications, told EURACTIV in September.
Reuters reported today that Weber urged Pittella and other pro-EU parties to join the EPP in electing the new president to show cohesion against Eurosceptic parties such as Britain’s UKIP, France’s Front National and Italy’s Five-Star movement.
Weber told a news conference that the right-left alliance had been crucial to passing all major legislation in the Parliament in recent years, and without that cooperation the socialists would become irrelevant.
The head of the Greens in the Parliament, Philippe Lamberts, said it was “hard to believe” the grand coalition will effectively collapse.
Later today, the EPP will pick its own candidate for the presidency.
Sources told EURACTIV that the result of the election will be crucial as it will determine the eventual stance of the Green Party, part of which is willing to support right-wing MEP Mairead McGuinness from Ireland.