MEPs shut out nationalists from key posts

In its constitutive meeting, Employment MEPs voted against the only candidate Beata Szydlo for chairing the committee. [WENGER/EP]

MEPs from the nationalist Identity and Democracy (ID) group have been excluded from the last EU key posts left in parliamentary committees. Hungary’s Fidesz and Poland’s Law and Justice have also been partially subjected to the cordon sanitaire imposed by the pro-European majority.

on Wednesday (10 July), lawmakers voted down all 11 candidates proposed by the ID group for posts on the European Parliament’s 20 standing committees.

Closing a process that started last week with the appointment of 14 vice-presidents, the far-right group was ultimately charged with no important roles in the European Parliament, at least for the other two years and a half.

In mid-June, the Parliament’s new president, David Sassoli, who was still the head of the delegation for Italy’s centre-left party Partito Democratico (PD) at the time, supported the idea of a cordon sanitaire.

The two committees picked by the ID group, Agriculture (AGRI) and Legal Affairs (JURI), eventually went to the centre-right European People Party (EPP) and liberals of Renew Europe (RE), respectively.

German EPP’s Norbert Lins was elected in the committee that will deal with post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), while British Liberal Democrat Lucy Nethsingha will run the cross-sectoral JURI, which gives legal opinions to practically all other committees.

Nationalists also lost the first vice-chairs of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) that they had claimed for Belgian MEP Gerolf Annemans. It went to German socialist Gabriele Bischoff instead.

French Stéphanie Yon Courtin (RE), Romanian Iuliu Winkler (EPP) and Italians Pietro Bartolo and Caterina Chinnici (both S&D) also benefited from ID’s exclusion, getting the second vice-presidency for Economic Affairs (ECON), Trade (INTA), Justice and Internal Affairs (LIBE) and budgetary control (CONT).

The four fourth vice-presidencies for Industry (ITRE), Regional Affairs (REGI), Transport (TRAN) and Fisheries (PECH) assigned to ID ended up going to Spanish Lina Galvez Muñoz (S&D), German Jan-Christoph Oetien (RE) and Portuguese Claudia Monteiro de Aguiar (EPP).

“We are facing an intolerable affront to the most basic rules of democracy,” said Mara Bizzotto, an MEP for the right-wing Lega.

Szydło voted down

The conservative group (ECR) received the same treatment for one of their candidates, the former Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło, who was supposed to be elected as chair of the Employment Committee (EMPL).

The president of the liberals in the European Parliament, Dacian Cioloș, warned before the appointments that Renew Europe would not vote for candidates involved in governments that had had issues with rule of law in the past.

However, other ECR candidates, also from Law and Justice, were elected. Witold Waszczykowski, for instance, was appointed first vice-chair of AFET, although he was foreign minister of Szydło’s government.

The ECR also secured the important Budgets (BUDG) committee, which will deal with the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the EU budget for 2021-2027, with the former finance minister of Belgium, Johan Van Overtveldt, at the helm.

The Conservative group, which has 62 MEPs, put the election of their designated candidates as one of the conditions for supporting Ursula von der Leyen as president of the new European Commission.

Szydło’s rejection “hardly encourages us to support a cross-party consensus next week,” added ECR co-chairman Ryszard Legutko.

EPP in trouble

Meanwhile, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party continues to cause problems for the EPP.

The proposal to name Hungarian MEP Balazs Hidvégi, the controversial former communication chief of Fidesz, as the Parliament’s third vice-president has raised eyebrows in the LIBE committee.

Greens had proposed a counter-candidate, putting at risk Hidvégi’s appointment, and the EPP asked for a suspension and the postponement of the vote.

Although he was not formally voted down, Hidvégi appears unlikely to be successful even in the next committee meeting.

MEPs in Agriculture committee also decided to suspend the session just before the vote on Spanish MEP Mazaly Aguilar (ECR) from right-wing populist VOX party, which is also considered worthy of cordon sanitaire by some political groups.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox]

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