17 January 2017 Tuesday
Italy’s Antonio Tajani, an ally of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, moved closer to being elected the new European Parliament president Tuesday after two key groups formed a “pro-European” alliance against rising populism.
The 63-year-old center-right politician comfortably won the first round of voting with 274 ballots but failed to secure a majority in the 751-seat parliament based in Strasbourg, France.
The silver-haired Tajani is a former European commissioner who has faced criticism over the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” emissions scandal and previously served as spokesman for scandal-plagued Berlusconi.
If confirmed, he will replace Germany’s Martin Schulz, a socialist who during five years in office made the office of European Parliament president far more prominent than it had ever been before.
Early on Tuesday the head of the parliament’s Liberal group, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, pulled out of the race and threw his support behind Tajani, the candidate of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) grouping.
“It is absolutely necessary. With Trump, with Putin, with many other challenges Europe faces, it is key we cooperate to reform our union,” said Verhofstadt.
The deal secures Verhofstadt’s important role as parliament’s chief negotiator in talks over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
EPP party chief Manfred Weber said: “Our partnership is based on content and on reforms for Europe.”
Source: World Bulletin.