Three candidates have come forward to contest the election for the next President of the European Parliament on 17 January 2012. Whoever MEPs choose to elect (very likely to be German Social Democrat Martin Schulz) will inherit the Presidency during a debt and credit crisis that is exposing deep divisions between member-states, and at a time when the democratic deficit between citizens and the European institutions has rarely seemed wider. The incumbent president, Jerzy Buzek, last week gave his valedictory speech and admitted he had come close to losing hope during his term:
We have not prepared our community for difficult and more challenging times. We did not have enough political will and we did not convince our citizens of such a project. We even broke our own rules! Discipline was lost. Three years ago, the financial crisis sailed across the Atlantic; we were not prepared for such a situation. Arguments about self-interest began to erode our belief in the common good, and now our union has moved into a deep crisis whose causes are as much political and psychological as economic.
Martin Schulz is almost certain to be elected President of the European Parliament as part of a long-standing deal struck between the two largest political groups in the European Parliament: the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) – led by Martin Schulz – and the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP). Despite this, two British MEPs – Conservative Nirj Deva and Liberal Democrat Diana Wallis – have announced they will be running against Schulz in an effort to sabotage the deal.
THE CANDIDATES’ GROUPS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
We’d really like to know what YOU think about this. Who do YOU think should be the next President of the European Parliament and why? Together, the S&D and the EPP have a clear majority in the European Parliament, so does it matter if they craft a deal between themselves to share the position of EP President? Or do you think this arrangement excludes smaller groups from being represented?
We’ll be speaking to MEPs about this, and we want to take some of your comments and ideas directly to them. Do you care who the next President of the European Parliament is? Does it make a difference? Let us know your comments on this topic in the form below, and we’ll take them to MEPs for their response.
UPDATE: An excellent point was made by Peter in the comments, arguing that we should explain further some of the policies the different candidates are suggesting. That might be tricky, as the campaigns have been fairly inward-facing until now (involving lobbying fellow MEPs, who will be the ones actually voting for the President, rather than appealing directly to citizens). Diana Wallis has, however, published a manifesto that can be found online here. It includes proposals to strengthen collaboration with national parliaments and the President working more with citizens’ groups.
Nirj Deva doesn’t appear to have published a manifesto online, but a letter sent to MEPs from his campaign is purported to have asked “Why Deva?”, replying: “Inclusive, non-partisan, multicultural, international stature and respect”. If you can find any other material from his campaign, please let us know in the comments.
Martin Schulz also doesn’t seem to have a manifesto anywhere online. However, he was quoted following his nomination as saying: “It is early days, of course, and there is still to be an election in January. But, if I am elected I will seek to work with other group leaders in order to help reinforce this institution.”
UPDATE II: Diana Wallis has responded to some of your questions and comments in this post in an interview with Debating Europe here.