Roberta Metsola: strong but not uncontroversial

Following the death of David Sassoli, the Maltese lawmaker Roberta Metsola has been elected as the new President of the European Parliament. In the vote on Tuesday, 458 out of 616 MEPs who took part voted for the 43-year-old, who is a member of the conservative European People's Party. Metsola is known for fighting corruption and discrimination but is also a tough opponent of abortion, meaning that her appointment is not entirely uncontroversial.

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Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

She has recognised her institution's predicament

The new president has aptly described a fundamental problem with the EU, the Salzburger Nachrichten writes:

“Metsola's first speech included a noteworthy sentence: 'We must burst through the Strasbourg and Brussels bubble'. This, she said, is the only way to bring Europe closer to the people. ... The EU Parliament is very proud of the fact that it does not simply rubber-stamp government bills. ... Nevertheless, the Parliament has the reputation of being a paper tiger. Whenever a self-assured and powerful approach are called for in the fight for its rights, the bigger parliamentary groups give in to pressure from the capitals. ... Should Metsola succeed in breaking with this pattern, she would not only be the youngest parliamentary president, but also a great one.”

Times of Malta (MT) /

A special and principled person

Roberta Metsola is the pride of the EU's smallest member state and a dignified representative for Europe, the Times of Malta writes in delight:

“Known as a bridge-builder, one of her first formal dossiers in the European Parliament was to represent the negotiations for a roadmap to end discrimination and homophobia led by Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek. ... Metsola was a leading voice on the need to respect the rule of law, the fight against corruption, the need for migration reform, press freedom and the need to bring European decision-making to a wider European audience. In December 2019, Metsola made headlines when she was pictured refusing to shake hands with Joseph Muscat [Malta's ex-prime minister whose government was implicated in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case] before a meeting with an EP delegation.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

No progress on women's rights to be expected

Columnist Natalia Aspesi remains sceptical in La Repubblica:

“The problems of the European Union are enormous, and as far as women's rights are concerned, the Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women cannot be ratified because there are states like Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia that reject it; and abortion is rejected by Poland, Hungary and Malta, where Roberta Metsola was born. Metsola has revealed her position, albeit rather ambiguously: she will not let the issue be voted on again and will adapt to the decisions of the parliament. However, this means that she will not campaign for the EU to finally ratify the Istanbul Convention.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Contrary to enlightened policies

Metsola's election is highly inopportune, Le Monde criticises:

“Four decades after Simone Veil [who fought for the legalisation of abortion in France and was the first EP president], and at a time when women in Poland are stubbornly fighting against the measures of the conservative government that deny them access to abortion, to elect a woman who remains firm in her opposition to the right to abortion as head of the Parliament of 27 blatantly contradicts the humanist and enlightened goals of the EU.”

La Croix (FR) /

Exaggerated demonisation

The French media isn't doing anyone any favours by highlighting Metsola's stance on abortion, La Croix fumes:

“As if her opposition to abortion was a blemish on her entire personality. No matter that she has made it abundantly clear that this is a personal conviction. ... We do not deny that the legalisation of abortion in France allows women to decide for themselves whether or not to continue their pregnancy in dignified conditions. But should we also deny the painful and complex side of abortion? Should we think that this is the only possible answer, or censor those who are against it? Such a stance would basically mirror that of US anti-abortionists. ... It's the same sort of demonisation.”