The first so-called EU top job is already assigned: on 3 July 2019, the Italian Social Democrat David-Maria Sassoli was elected President of the European Parliament for the next 2 ½ years. He achieved the absolute majority of votes cast in the second ballot.
There had been turbulent days and nights in Brussels prior to the constituent meeting of the EU Parliament on 2 July 2019. It is the responsibility of the EU Council and thereby the heads of state and government to propose or to appoint candidats for the most important positions in the EU. In first position ranks the Commission President. The Council suggests a candidate for this position, which must be approved by Parliament. However, to achieve a balance with regard to party families, regions as well as gender balance, additional persons are nominated for EU top jobs within the scope of the same negotiation round of the Council: The President of the European Council, the ECB President, the High Representative and the President of the EU Parliament - even though the last position is actually not part of the Council’s scope.
On the evening of 2 July 2019, the heads of state and government agreed on the current German Defence Secretary Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) as Commission President. Prior to that, the top candidates of the Social Democrats and the Liberals for the EU election, Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, had been the promising candidates for these allegedly most important position in the EU. However, according to the Council, they now shall become Vice Presidents of the Commission. The Belgian Liberal Charles Michel has been nominated as EU Council President and the Spaniard Josep Borrell as High Representative; Christine Lagarde has been designated ECB President. The Italian Social Democrat David-Maria Sassoli shall become EU Parliament President for the first half of the legislative period; in the second half EPP leading candidate Manfred Weber is supposed to fill that role.
However, apart from the EU Council President and the ECB President, all positions have to be elected and confirmed respectively by the European Parliament. As the first of these EU top jobs, the election of the Presidency of the EU Parliament was on the agenda of 3 July. The first vote was awaited with great anticipation, as there was a lot of unease among many MEPs that the heads of state and government, who had proposed Ursula von der Leyen, had discarded the principle of top candidates on EU elections, whose successful candidate should subsequently take over the Commission Presidency.
Hence, there were four candidates for the EU Parliament Presidency: apart from Sassoli, Ska Keller of the German Greens, the Spanish MEP of the Left, Sira Rego as well as the Czech MEP Jan Zahradil of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group were standing for election. Whilst during the first ballot, 325 votes did not give David-Maria Sassoli absolute majority, he got 345 votes in the second ballot and as a result nine more than required. Zahradil got 160 votes, Keller 119 and Rego 43.
In his first address to Parliament, David Sassoli demanded a stronger Europe and emphasised the independence and diversity of Parliament. Europe should modernise and become stronger and the trust between citizens and institutions had to be strengthened. He mentioned climate change, social justice, growth and migration as the most important issues. He wants to see a stronger Parliament with regard to other EU institutions that - thanks to the increased turnout in the EU elections - was able to take up its work in the new period from a strengthened position.
In the week commencing 15 July 2019, Parliament’s plenary will gather again. Scheduled for this session week is the vote on Ursula von der Leyen as the Commission President. And even if by making this proposal, the heads of state and government have abandoned the principle of EU election’s top candidates, from the vantage point of the present, a majority against here would still be rather surprising. Hence, by confirming David-Maria Sassoli as Parliament President it has now become clear that the majority of Parliament follows the personnel recommendations of the heads of state and government.
Apart from the President, Parliament also elected a total of 14 Vice Presidents on the same day. One of these is Othmar Karas (ÖVP), which means that an Austrian MEP is also represented in the Presidium of the European Parliament.
On 3 July 2019, the newly elected EU Parliament also decided on the number and size of the committees for the new period. Overall - as in the past period - 20 committees as well as two sub-committees will be set up. With 76 MEPs, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety will have the largest number of members. With 72 members, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy will be the second largest. Which MEPs will be represented as member and deputy in individual committees, was also determined on 4 July 2019.