ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Coalition autour d’un président ultralibéral
by Gaël De Santis
Translated Monday 10 August 2009, by Henry Crapoand reviewed by
STRASBOURG . Jerzy Buzek elected President of the European Parliament by an alliance of Conservatives, Socialists and Greens. Eva-Britt Svennson, of the GUE, receives a third of the left-wing vote.
Dairy producers were in Strasbourg yesterday for the opening of the new European Parliament, as its first session since the elections in June got underway. A caravan was parked in front of the parliament building, sporting a banner which read, "the milk caravan", and draped in the flags of the Confédération paysanne. In the courtyard, the Young European Federalists handed out leaflets which, like many parliamentarians , foresaw the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty by the twenty-seven member states. Their bumph even called for "a new constitution". Yesterday morning, you would have heard more about the Lisbon Treaty than about the dairy farmers.
Buzek, a former conservative Prime Minister.
The Parliament, now further to the right than before the elections, chose Jerzy Buzek as its new President. A former Polish dissident, he was the chairman at the first congress of Solidarnosc in 1981, and later served as the Prime Minister of Poland. He initiated negotiations in 1997 which led to the accession of Poland to the European Union, and was behind Poland joining NATO in 1999. The United European Left (GUE) expressed their opposition. Deputies from the Left Front warned that Jerzy Buzek had "boasted about closing down 22 mines, stood proudly by his privatizations, and had associated immigration with a rise in juvenile delinquency." In his post-election speech he praised Pope John Paul II as a source of inspiration for the struggle for human rights in Poland...
All this was the spur for the European United Left (GUE) to run Eva-Britt Svennson as the only competing candidate. Jerzy Buzek was elected with 555 votes. The Polish Conservative received this tally due to "a technical agreement" between the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D) and the group that the Mouvement Démocratique belongs to, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). The Left Front’s parliamentary allies, the GUE, however, called on the other groups to "choose values over parliamentary posts". In exchange for their willingness to a deal, the Socialists will take over the presidency in two and a half years time, and the Liberal Democrats will chair an ad hoc committee on the financial crisis.
The Greens are not taking part in this horse-trading, but they chose not to put forward an alternative candidate, even though they had stated their opposition to shared leadership during the last Parliament. "We were in favour of a political agreement," Pascal Canfin, elected on the Europe Écologie list, told us. "Given that there is only an administrative agreement in place, we would say that the election of Jerzy Buzek had less to do with politics than with symbolism". In fact, the Greens are critical of the new President’s line on the deregulation of agriculture and his stances on environmental issues. "He is, however, the first President of the Parliament from Eastern Europe, someone who took part in the Solidarnosc struggles from the beginning." Canfin is not so sure that the Greens will vote for the prospective Socialist candidate, Martin Schultz, in two years time — a man without the same symbolic pedigree.
In a surprise result, Eva-Britt Svensson received 89 votes. "More than the 32 members of the GUE present yesterday morning," announced a happy Lothar Bisky, chairman of the United European Left. Some Socialists and Greens had, it would seem, voted for the candidate from the Swedish Left Party. In total, the equivalent of a third of the left votes went to the only candidacy opposed to the shared leadership pact. "We want to put social issues to the forefront, and to have a President who works for equality among men and women," said Bisky. Svennson wore an Ankh necklace yesterday, a symbol of her struggle for women’s rights.
An Autumn Meeting in Brussels
While Socialists and Greens voted for Jerzy Buzek, they railed in the back rooms against the proposal of the member states to re-elect Jose Manuel Barroso (European People’s Party [EPP]) as head of the Commission. For the moment, they have only succeeded in getting the vote postponed till the autumn. However, the Socialists fear that Jose Manuel Barroso, will be elected despite their opposition, thanks to an alliance between the EPP, the centrists (ALDE) and the new group formed around the British Conservative Party, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG). The new group— composed of pro-market, nationalist parties— are calling, in the words of their chairman, Timothy Kirkhope, for "an anti-Socialist alliance". A confident Barroso, in his speech congratulating the new President, told a right-wing deputy— who had called for the French and Dutch "No" votes on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe to be respected— that it was not right "for a parliamentarian" to criticize the Lisbon Treaty, which had been "ratified by 26 of the 27 national Parliaments of the EU". The neo-liberals can sleep easy, the alternative candidates favoured by the Socialists and the Greens are in agreement on this question.