One of our last posts before the Christmas break was this one on the upcoming vote for the next President of the European Parliament. On 17th January, MEPs will be voting for a successor to Jerzy Buzek, the current President and a member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP). Buzek has been in the post since 2009 and could technically serve another two-and-a-half year term, but there is an agreement between the EPP and the socialist group to share the post between themselves. As such, socialist candidate Martin Schulz is widely expected to take over from Buzek this year.
We put a poll online before the Christmas break and, judging by the results, it seems that Debating Europe readers overwhelmingly support Diana Wallis’ bid as an independent candidate for the post instead of Schulz. Not all of you, however, know much about her as a candidate. For example, Michael says in the comments:
If I had to vote for a political party that would be the liberal party and consequently in our case, as far as the person is concerned, for Diana Wallis. I don’t know anything about Mrs Wallis except that stated on this page. The same with the rest of the candidates. I believe, though, that the following question should be addressed prior to the current one and that is : ” What can we expect from the next President of the European Parliament”
We spoke with Diana Wallis today about her candidacy, and took some of your comments to her. First of all, the obvious question: “What can we expect from the next President of the European Parliament?”
I believe the next President should have a democratic mandate from all the members of the parliament from across the house, rather than being beholden to any particular political faction. That’s why I’m running as an independent, not as a liberal candidate, and why I’ve launched my candidacy with 40 signatures from MEPs from all groups and none. I want an independent Presidency that enables all members of the parliament to better fulfill their mandate. I want to open up the Bureau of the European Parliament, where I’ve been a Vice-President for 5 years. I’ve also been an MEP for 12 years. I’ve seen how it works from the inside, so I can open up our own internal decision-making process.
The other part of Michael’s comment is about not knowing much who any of the candidates are or what they stand for. We also had a comment from a user called Cyberman, arguing - “[The candidates] aren`t voted for by the public, so I couldn`t care less who wins.” Should the public care who wins?
Yes, I think they should. I think it’s very sad that we’ve come to a position where the leading post in the European Parliament appears to be decided by a small number of people. A “deal” is the word I think you used on Debating Europe. What I’m trying to do is open up this discussion much more. That’s why I’m the only candidate trying to run an external campaign as well as an internal campaign for fellow MEPs. This is indicative of the sort of Presidency I’d like to run.
It may be a small thing, but any time the president goes anywhere, time and space should be given to really engage with citizens’ groups. I also think European Parliament committees need to get out and about more, rather than just meeting with ministers in a capital city, they should be meeting much more with their counterparts in national parliaments.
Next, we had a comment from Mr.Violet, who argues that the “tradition of the closed door agreements between the two major parties” is a bad thing. He argues that these type of agreements should not become the norm, and that any agreements should be debated in “a public debate in a plenary session of the European Parliament itself.” How would you respond?
Well, I agree that this is part of the problem; we’ve almost institutionalised the deal. But it isn’t anywhere in the European Parliament’s rules! If you look at most parliaments across Europe, the speaker or the president is an independent post. What I’m trying to do is deliver a reminder that this is what the presidency should be about.
Finally, we had a comment from Oliver who wonders if you might be at a disadvantage because of your nationality. Has the recent falling-out between the UK and other EU states made it harder for you to find support?
No, I don’t agree with it in my case. I am known as a pro-European, and if the parliament wants to show itself to be different and democratic, and to respect the track-record of somebody who has been there for five years, then a vote for me would achieve this. What better antidote to the current situation?
What do YOU think? Which of the candidates would YOU support? Do you have any questions for Wallis, or for Martin Schulz or Nirj Deva, the British Conservative MEP running as a candidate for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)? Do you think the debate is unimportant because the public can’t vote? Or do you think the deal to share the post of President is wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take your comments and questions to MEPs for their reactions.
Diana Wallis is a UK Liberal Democrat MEP and Vice President of the European Parliament responsible for transparency. She is running as an independent candidate for President of the European Parliament. Her campaign website is here.