Members of the European Parliament elected Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola from the European People’s Party Group as President until 2024.
Metsola won the election on January 18 in the first voting round, where she received an absolute majority of 458 votes out of the 690 ballots cast, which were submitted in a secret vote, according to the EU’s tradition, that had to be held remotely due to COVID.
Metsola vowed to uphold European principles, fight climate change, help end the separation of Cyprus and advance the EU’s relationship with Western Balkans.
“The first thing I would like to do as President is to think about David Sassoli’s legacy: he was a fighter; he fought for Europe and for us, for this Parliament. […] I will honour David Sassoli as President by always standing up for Europe, for our common values of democracy, dignity, justice, solidarity, equality, the rule of law, and fundamental rights,” Metsola said.
“I want people to recapture a sense of belief and enthusiasm for our project. […] Dear Europeans, in the next years, people across Europe will look to our institution for leadership and direction, while others will continue to test the limits of our democratic values and European principles. We must fight back against the anti-EU narrative that takes hold so easily and so quickly. Disinformation and misinformation further amplified during the pandemic, fuel easy cynicism and cheap solutions of nationalism, authoritarianism, protectionism, isolationism”, she added.
Metsola underlined that “Europe is about precisely the opposite. It is about all of us standing up for one another, bringing our people closer together. It is about all of us defending those principles of our founding mothers and fathers that led us from the ashes of war and holocaust to peace, to hope, and to prosperity. Twenty-two years ago, Nicole Fontaine was elected 20 years after Simone Veil. It will not be another two decades until the next woman is standing here”, she said.
In her speech, Metsola highlighted the problem of climate change, saying, “Climate change is ravaging our continent and our world – it is no longer a problem for another generation to deal with. If you believe in science, and this House does, the question is no longer if, but when. The European Green Deal and the pledge to be the first carbon-free continent is the right answer,” she said.
The new EU Parliament President stressed this is not only a necessity and an urgency, it is also an opportunity for Europe to take the lead, to re-invent itself, to ensure growth, sustainability and prosperity while reducing emissions. “We must impress on the rest of the world that the fight against climate change is a common destiny. Tomorrow is too late. And we must continue to show that you cannot decouple the environment and the economy,” Metsola said.
Cyprus and Western Balkans
The Maltese MEP noted that Europe has a legacy of war, but also of healing. “We can put this experience to use in helping efforts to end the separation in the EU’s last divided country – Cyprus – under the auspices of the UN plan. We can never be truly whole while Cyprus remains split. We must also reverse the lost momentum when it comes to our relationship with the Western Balkans,” she said.
Metsola will lead the Parliament in the second half of the current legislative term, until a new Parliament is constituted following the 2024 European Elections.
Born in Malta in 1979, Metsola who has been an MEP since 2013, is the youngest EP President ever elected. She became First Vice-President in November 2020 and was Parliament’s acting President after President David Sassoli died on January 11. She is the third female President of the European Parliament, after Simone Veil (1979-1982) and Nicole Fontaine (1999- 2002).
The President enjoys a broad range of executive and representative powers set out in Rule 22. Other than these duties, the President’s authority extends to “all powers that are necessary to preside over the proceedings of Parliament and to ensure that they are properly conducted”. The decisions that have ensured the smooth functioning of Parliament since the COVID-19 pandemic began are a key example of this.
Article 14 of the Treaty on the European Union states that Parliament elects its President from among its Members. Since the first European Elections in 1979, each President is in office for a renewable period of two and a half years. This means that there are normally two Presidents in each legislative term.
There have been 31 presidents since the Parliament was created in 1952, 17 of whom have served since 1979.