Heard in Europe

We hear that European Parliament President Martin Schulz will sit out a full 5-year term as head of the legislature. That may be good news for Schulz, but bad news for ex-Commissioner Antonio Tajani, a candidate to take over the second two-and-a-half year part of this presidential mandate.

Schulz was elected President of the European Parliament on 17 January 2012 for a mandate of two and half years, with 387 votes. At the European elections he performed well as “Spitzenkandidat” for the EU centre-left, but he lost to EPP candidate Jean-Claude Juncker. On 1 July 2014, Schulz was reelected with 409 votes, becoming the first President in the history of the European Parliament to be re-elected for a second term.

Under a power sharing agreement with EPP, Schulz was expected to leave his post to a centre-right candidate for the second 2-and-a-half years of the 5-year EU political cycle.

But now it looks almost certain that Schulz is likely to serve his full 5 years, which coincide with the Juncker Commission’s term. Together with the 2-and-a-half years he served during the time of the previous Barroso Commission, that would make him a record holder with 7.5 years as Parliament President.

The reason why the EPP accepts keeping Schulz in place include the obvious argument that it would be politically incorrect to give the centre-right all three top jobs in the EU institutions – President of the Commission, of the Council and of the Parliament.

Another reason is that the Parliament’s top job should not go to the liberals, as their leader Guy Verhofstadt is seen as a loose cannon. In contrast, Schulz plays ball with Juncker and makes his life easier at very difficult times.

A third reason is that even the EPP are unsure if Antonio Tajani, former Italian Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and a member Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is indeed a good choice. Tajani has a talent for making himself available each time top jobs are distributed, but he is seen as a risky bet to handle geopolitical questions such as the EU stand-off with Russia.


Photograph courtesy of GovernmentZA. Published under a Creative Commons licence.

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