The European Parliament

As MEPs returned to begin the second half of their five-year mandate, the European Parliament’s Plenary session in Strasbourg (15-19 January 2012) voted-in its new team of President, Vice-Presidents, Quaestors and Committee Chairs. 

As expected, Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialists and Democrats Party (S&D), was elected as President, replacing Jerzy Buzek of the European People’s Party (EPP). 

This election was notable for the high profile campaign of British Liberal (ALDE) MEP, Diana Wallis, who ran as an independent candidate in protest against the compact between the Liberals, Socialists and Christian Democrats which effectively pre-decides each presidential vote. 

While, ‘constitutionally’, the President of the European Parliament should be elected for the full five-year term of the Parliament, since 1990 the major political groupings have formed a compact whereby the position alternates between candidates of the right and left every two-and-a-half years. Ultimately, due to opposition from Wallis (with 141 votes) and British Tory Nirj Deva (with 142 votes), Mr. Schulz was voted-in with one of the lowest shares of the votes for a President since the first direct elections in 1979 (with 387 votes). Following the election, the leadership of the S&D party in Parliament was transferred to the Austrian, Hannes Swoboda. Subsequent to her election failure, Diana Wallis controversially resigned her position in the European Parliament, with criticism focusing on the fact that under the list system she would be replaced as MEP for Yorkshire by her husband, Stewart Arnold.

On 18 January 2012 the Parliament elected its 14 Vice-Presidents, who make up the Parliament's bureau. The bureau lays down parliamentary rules, draws up the Parliament’s preliminary draft budget and decides administrative, staff and organisational matters. 

The VPs were elected by simple majority, with the top three elected candidates coming from S&D, namely Gianni Pittella of Italy, Miguel Angel Martinez Martinez of Spain and Anni Podimata of Greece. In total, the EPP now holds seven of the total complement, with three S&D representatives, two Liberals, one Green and one member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group. Notably, incumbent Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, who was originally elected under the EPP banner before the British Conservatives switched allegiance to the ECR, retained his position despite moving to the ALDE group.