Maltese politician becomes Acting President of the European Parliament and is the clear favorite to be elected for the rest of the legislature
“With a broken heart”, on Tuesday, the vice president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, from Maltese, said goodbye to her colleague David Sassoli, who died at 65 years of age. But the gears of the European institution continue to turn and, on the same day of his death, conservative politics had to occupy the acting presidency of the European Parliament. In practice, Metsola had already taken over some of the responsibilities that come with the position last fall, when Sassoli came down with pneumonia.
At 42, the Maltese has made history by becoming the youngest president of this European institution and is also the third woman to access the position. In addition, his appointment in office could be just an advance of the official, since he was the favorite to succeed the Italian politician in the vote that will take place on January 18, for the agreement between Social Democrats and Conservatives to divide the presidency of the European Parliament during each legislature – in two terms of two and a half years.
Metsola’s profile, however, is totally opposite to that of his predecessor David Sassoli, with a marked progressive character. This lawyer specialized in European legislation belongs to the more moderate wing of the European People’s Party and is open to discussing migration policies and the rights of LGTB people.
In the European Parliament he has defended the vision of a Europe in peace, green, with equal opportunities, justice and work. She is also openly against the right to abortion and in her native country, Malta, she participated in the mobilizations for the island to be exempted from the European regulations that legislate this issue.
From her seat, she has remained faithful to those convictions and has voted against any resolution in defense of abortion, which the European Parliament considers a fundamental right of women. This stance has earned him criticism from European socialists and progressives, who are also concerned about his stance on sexist violence, for his vote against it being criminalized throughout the EU.
Despite not having, a priori, the support of other groups, Metsola has the confidence of the vast majority of its group, the main one in the European Chamber with 177 seats. It also has a clear advantage over its rivals, the Polish Kosma Zlotowski – from the conservative Law and Justice party -, the Spanish Sira Rego, from the European Left group and the Green candidate, Alice Bah Kuhnke.
Born in 1979 in San Julián, north of Valletta, her education had a marked European character, being one of the first students in her country to participate in the Erasmus program. He studied law and during his career, already with his sights set on Brussels, he specialized in European legislation. Between 2012 she became the legal advisor to Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. And, just a year later, she won a seat in the European Parliament.
His popularity grew as he took an active role in the debates on migration, in the wake of the migration wave of 2015, defending the vision of Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece. In national politics, she was very critical of the corruption cases uncovered in Malta.
A “Proud Christian Democrat,” Metsola is a mother of four and a strong advocate of family values. On European values, he says, they are important not only for Europe, “but for all those who look to the EU_with hope.”
And on January 18, Metsola wants to personify that hope to serve as Speaker of Parliament for the remainder of the term. A young image plays in his favor – somewhat clouded by his position on abortion – and that comes from a small country with little representation in community institutions.
Minute of silence
The community institutions continued to function this Wednesday with the precision of a Swiss watch, but keeping very much in mind the memory of the recently deceased President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. The seminar of the College of Commissioners observed a minute of silence in honor of the Italian politician, who died early Monday at the age of 65 due to a dysfunction in his immune system.
Comrades of seats and workers of the European Parliament paid tribute to him on Tuesday, in a heartfelt rally in front of the institution’s headquarters in Brussels. Respected and loved inside and outside the European Parliament, the messages of regret for his loss continued to happen this Wednesday. “His warmth was an inspiration to all of us who knew him,” wrote European Green Deal Commissioner Frans Timmermans.
The French Secretary of State for Europe, Clément Beaune, defined Sassoli as “a fighter for Europe.” “He was a sincere and passionate defender of democracy and the values of our Union,” he added.
The US authorities also extended their condolences to Sassoli’s family and friends. “He will be remembered as a staunch defender of relations between the American giant and the European Union,” defended State Department spokesman Ned Price. In addition, he defined the European representative as “a voice in favor of democracy and Human Rights worldwide.”
Rome will host throughout today the burning chapel of the Italian journalist and politician, in the Sala della Protomoteca del Campidoglio. Tomorrow the funeral will be held in the Basilica of Santa Maria de los Angeles and, on Monday, Parliament will say its last goodbye in a ceremony in Strasbourg, in which the former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta will participate.
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