Will Tajani give the EU Parliament a new role?

The Italian conservative Antonio Tajani has become the new president of the European Parliament. Tajani, a former spokesman for Silvio Berlusconi and ex-EU commissioner, won the runoff against the Socialist Gianni Pittella with the support of the Liberals. While some columnists see Tajani's influence as extremely limited, others believe his election will strengthen the role of the EU Parliament.

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Financial Times (GB) /

New balance of power a chance for EU Parliament

The wrangling over the new president has reinvigorated the EU Parliament, which could lead to better policies, the Financial Times hopes:

“Electing a president in a divided parliament will always involve some horse-trading, and may produce unexpected leaders. At least with Mr Tajani’s elevation the dealmaking has produced an outcome conducive to debate rather than cynical conformity. It remains to be seen whether the new ruling coalition can do a better job of scrutinising the commission and representing Europe’s voters. … Yet the shift from a grand coalition to a leadership with a distinctive identity brings hope that an often overlooked part of the EU machinery can play a more constructive part.”

Magyar Idők (HU) /

Pseudo-conservatives dominate Europe

Tajani's election won't change the fact that Merkel and Juncker, who have thrown their conservative values overboard, call the shots in the EU, the conservative daily Magyar Idők comments:

“Let's not deceive ourselves: neither the election of Tajani nor the strengthening of Europe's right and the European People's Party will change Europe's policies or orientation. We mustn't forget that the two leading politicians of the European right are Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker. And their power and influence have grown through Brexit and the gradual weakening of France and Italy, which is by no means a fortunate turn of events. Merkel and Juncker have betrayed their traditional right-wing values. Today they stand for a wishy-washy liberalism, faceless globalisation, failed multiculturalism and an aimless, weak and valueless Europe.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Fantastic news from Strasbourg

Tajani's election is the start of a new political culture in the EU Parliament, Hospodářské noviny writes in delight:

“With this election the unholy coalition of the two largest groups - the Christian Democrats and Socialists - will finally collapse. Until now they worked out between them who would be parliamentary president, irrespective of the election result. That contributed to the dwindling interest of Europeans in the EU Parliament - the sole directly elected EU institution. This time around the Socialists were at odds with the Christian Democrats, and they pulled Tajani out of a hat and started something that the Parliament has lacked for so long: normal politics. ... So welcome, Mr Tajani. You represent far more for European politics than one would think at first glance. Your election to the top tier of the ever more powerful Parliament is fantastic news.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

EU Parliament needs a more modest president

The new president of the EU Parliament must take a more modest approach than his predecessor Martin Schulz, NRC Handelsblad urges:

“One could have expected Schulz to play a modest, politically neutral role. ... But the opposite was the case. As president he allowed himself on more than one occasion to make very outspoken political comments which not all MEPs agreed with, to say the least. ... One can only hope that the new president Tajani will keep his promise and not act like 'Europe's prime minister'. He must represent the entire parliament. That means that he must be visible when the focus is on the parliament as an institution, but invisible when it comes to European political issues.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

New president must be able to act as mediator

It isn't necessarily a bad thing if Tajani doesn’t dominate the stage in the way his predecessor Schulz did, Salzburger Nachrichten comments:

“The bigger role the EU Parliament has played since the Treaty of Lisbon will continue even after the switch from Schulz to Tajani as president. How effectively it uses this power depends less on the president than on the parliament's work. And that may actually improve after Schulz leaves. At any rate, there won't be any more back room deals between the president of the Parliament and the president of the Commission. … On important issues like migration and combating terror the rifts are more between Eurosceptics and pro-Europeans or between east and west than between the political groups. Seen in this light the parliament needs someone who can mediate between these groups.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

The left is the big loser

Antonio Tajani was elected with the help of votes from the Liberal camp. Gość Niedzielny is delighted about the new coalition:

“As democracy undergoes radical change, it is the left that is losing the most support. Until a short while ago Europeans could only choose between Christian democrats and social democrats. Now the Front National or Movimento 5 Stelle, which challenge the elites, could come to power. And precisely now this old grand coalition which had until now decided who gets which post in the EU, has collapsed. In the new coalition the Christian Democrats and the Liberals are more suited to agree programmatically, and they can cooperate better than parties from opposing camps. ... And the victims of this new coalition are those on the left.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

A bitter pill for the parliamentary groups

Tajani is a bad compromise for all sides, Spiegel Online concludes:

“'This is the bitter pill we must swallow,' FDP member Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said. … The liberals have thus freed EPP chair Manfred Weber from an unpleasant position. Even the fact that Tajani was a candidate was considered within the EPP as a defeat for Weber. … Alde leader Verhofstadt was also in urgent need of a success. Only recently he suffered a disastrous failure when he tried to bring the populist Five-Star movement into his group. On Tuesday Verhofstadt withdrew his own bid for the presidency. … So now the biggest losers are the Social Democrats. Their leader Gianni Pittella had cancelled a deal with the EPP which would have left the presidential post to the conservatives after Martin Schulz's departure. Now Tajani has nonetheless become president but the grand coalition is passé.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Eurosceptics given power to tip the scales

The election of the new European Parliament president is a gift to the Eurosceptic bloc, Il Sole 24 Ore complains:

“Following the collapse of the coalition between the conservatives and socialists - with 406 out of 751 votes the two strongest groups in the parliament - the second part of this legislative period is beginning with a pact between the conservative EPP and the liberals, which together have just 285 votes. This number speaks for itself and tells us that the new alliance is heading for stormy waters, forced to negotiate varying political majorities every time it wants to secure approval for a piece of legislation. In this way the army of Eurosceptics, consisting of approximately one hundred MEPs, will inevitably be given the power to block legislation.”