French opposition eyes EU Parliament Presidency in 2017

Alain Lamassoure

Alain Lamassoure takes the floor in the European Parliament, 2013. [European Parliament/Flickr]

MEP Alain Lamassoure has been appointed to lead France’s centre-right UMP delegation to the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week and could use this position as a springboard to succeed Martin Schulz as President of the EU Assembly in 2017. EURACTIV France reports.

Alain Lamassoure is paving the way to take over from Martin Schulz as President of the EU Parliament in 2017.

The current interim President of the French delegation to the European People’s Party, Lamassoure’s name has been mentioned as a potential candidate for 2017.

France’s main opposition and centrist party, the UMP, was supposed to choose the leader of their European delegation before the parliamentary reconstitution session in Strasbourg on 1 July. The decision should have been between Constance le Grip, MEP for Ile-de-France and Franck Proust, MEP for the France’s South West constituency.

The vote was cancelled when no consensus could be found. “The decision was postponed to next week,” the delegation was told. “We still have not proceeded to a formal vote due to time constraints, but it is pretty much official,” Alain Lamassoure told EURACTIV France.

“People should not underestimate France’s potential of taking over the presidency after Martin Schulz,” said Philippe Juvin, a centrist MEP. As president of the UMP delegation to the Parliament, Alain Lamassoure will “stay on the radar,” he said.

Grand coalition

The two main European parliamentary groups struck a coalition deal on 24 June, and divided the five year presidency between them.

>> Read: Grand coalition accord draws near in EU Parliament

Due to a similar agreement five years ago, Martin Schulz had to share the last term with his polish counterpart, Jerzy Buzek.

Alain Lamassoure will be well placed within the EPP to take over when Schulz’s 2½ year term comes to an end. On twitter, spokesperson for the EPP affirmed that the EPP had not decided on its candidate for the next term but that Lamassoure was a “good suggestion.” Lamassoure responded that “it makes no sense to mention names 2½ years in advance.”

ALDE, Europe’s Liberal group, also took part in the deal struck with the EPP, but will not present a candidate to take over from Schulz.

Difficult times for the UMP

Alain Lamassoure’s nomination as head of the French delegation comes at a difficult time for the UMP in the European Parliament. The delegation’s numbers decreased from 30 to 20 MEPs following the European elections, which saw a surge of the far-right in France.

Joseph Daul, the former President of the EPP, chose to end his career, further weakening the UMP’s influence in the parliament. Another blow came right after the European election with the controversy surrounding Jérôme Lavrilleux MEP, whose future in Strasbourg is uncertain. Some centre-right MEPs are demanding his exclusion from the UMP delegation following his role in the Bygmalion Affair and the financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign.

>> Read: New French MEP under fire for role in “Bygmalion affair”

“The delegation is going through some tough times,” said Jean-Pierre Audy, outgoing president of the French delegation. Lamassoure, who was first elected as an MEP in 1989, is “a good candidate,” according to Philippe Juvin.

“There was a clear need to maintain the unity of the delegation, and the negotiation conditions of the agreement between the EPP and the Socialists convinced everybody of the necessity to have a delegation president who is known within the Parliament,” said Alain Lamassoure.

Lamassoure’s profile divided the UMP during May’s EU elections. Henri Guaino, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former advisor, stated that he would not vote for the UMP in the EU elections and accused Lamassoure of embodying “the Europe that nobody wants anymore.”

The UMP delegation exemplifies the divides within the party. Some members, like Rachida Dati or Nadine Morano, are negative towards the European project, while Alain Lamassoure and Arnaud Danjean are self-claimed pro-Europeans.

The leaders of other French party delegations to the EU have already been chosen. Michèle Rivasi will lead the Greens and Pervenche Béres is taking over from Catherine Trautmann at the head of the Socialists.

Following the EU elections on 25 May 2014, MEPs will sit in the Brussels for the first time on 1 July 2014.

Their first session will focus on electing the President of the European Parliament.

On 16 July, they will hold a vote of confidence Jean-Claude Juncker's nomination as President of the European Commission. 

  • 1 July 2014: Election of the President of the European Parliament
  • 16 July 2014: Election of the President of the European Commission

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