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President of the European Parliament

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President of the European Parliament

President of the
European Parliament
Logo of the Parliament
Martin Schulz

since 1 July 2014
Appointer European Parliament
Term length Two years and six months, renewable
Inaugural holder Paul Henri Spaak /
Robert Schuman[1]
Formation 1952 / 1958[1]
Website Official website
European Union
Flag of the European Union

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government
of the European Union

The President of the European Parliament presides over the debates and activities of the European Parliament. He or she also represents the Parliament within the EU and internationally. The President's signature is required for enacting most EU laws and the EU budget.

Presidents serve two-and-a-half-year terms, normally divided between the two major political parties. There have been twenty-eight Presidents since the Parliament was created in 1952, thirteen of whom have served since the first Parliamentary election in 1979. Two Presidents have been women and most have come from the older member states. The current President is Martin Schulz of Germany.

Role in Parliament

The President chairs debates and oversees all the activities of the Parliament and its constituent bodies (ensuring the Parliament's rules of procedure are applied), in this the role is similar to that of a speaker in a national parliament. Below the President, there are 14 Vice-Presidents who chair debates when the President is not in the chamber. The President also chairs the meetings of the Bureau, which is responsible for budgetary and administration issues, and the Conference of Presidents which is a governing body composed of the presidents of each of the parliament's political groups.[2][3]

Position in the Union

He or she represents Parliament in all legal matters and external relations, particularly international relations. When the European Council meets, the President addresses it to give the Parliament's position on subjects on the Council's agenda. The President also takes part in Intergovernmental Conferences on new treaties. The President's signature is also required for the budget of the European Union and Union acts adopted under codecision procedure to be adopted. The President also chairs conciliation committees with the Council under these areas.[2][3]

In most countries, the protocol of the head of state comes before all others, however in the EU the Parliament is listed as the first institution, and hence the protocol of its President comes before any other European, or national, protocol. The gifts given to numerous visiting dignitaries depends upon the President. President Josep Borrell MEP of Spain gave his counterparts a crystal cup created by an artist from Barcelona which had engraved upon it parts of the Charter of Fundamental Rights among other things.[4]

With the reorganisation of leading EU posts under the Lisbon Treaty, there was some criticism of each posts vague responsibilities. Ukrainian ambassador to the EU Andriy Veselovsky praised the framework and clarified it in his own terms: The President of the European Commission speaks as the EU's "government" while the President of the European Council is a "strategist". The High Representative specialises in "bilateral relations" while the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy deals in technical matters such as the free trade agreement with Ukraine. The Parliament's President meanwhile articulates the EU's values such as democratic elections in other countries.[5]


Map showing the number of presidents from each state;

The President is elected by the members of Parliament for a two-and-a-half-year term, meaning two elections per parliamentary term, hence two Presidents may serve during any one Parliamentary term. Since the European People's Party and Party of European Socialists began co-operating in the 1980s, they have had a tradition of splitting the two posts between them. In practice this means, in 2004–2009 for example, that the People's Party supported the Socialist candidate for President and, when his term expired in 2007, the Socialists supported the People's Party candidate for President. This results in large majorities for Presidents, although there are some exceptions: for example from 1999–2004, under a People's Party–Liberal deal, the President for the second half of the term was a Liberal, rather than a Socialist.[6]

Starting from the 2009–2014 session of the Parliament the outgoing President presides over the election of the new President, provided that the outgoing President is re-elected as an MEP. If the outgoing President is not re-elected as an MEP then one of the 14 Vice-Presidents takes up the role. While the outgoing President or Vice President is in the chair, they hold all the powers of the President, but the only business that may be addressed is the election of the new President.[7]

Before the ballot nominations are handed to the chair who announces them to Parliament. If no member holds an absolute majority after three ballots, a fourth is held with only the two members holding the highest number of votes on the previous ballot. If there is still a tie following this, the eldest candidate is declared elected.[8]

A number of notable figures have been President of the Parliament and its predecessors. The first President was Paul-Henri Spaak MEP, one of the founding fathers of the Union. Other founding fathers include Alcide de Gasperi MEP and Robert Schuman MEP. The two female Presidents were Simone Veil MEP in 1979 (first President of the elected Parliament) and Nicole Fontaine MEP in 1999, both Frenchwomen.[9] Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister of Poland and member of Solidarity Electoral Action, was elected as the first president from the central and eastern European countries which joined in the 2000s (more precisely, he is the first person from a country that joined the EU after 1986 to hold the post).


Buzek's presidency is part of the usual People's Party – Socialist agreement to have one presidency each of the two during each parliament. For the 2009–2014 term Buzek gets the post for the first term of office of two and a half years, and someone from the Socialists will get it for the second.[10] The 2004-2009 parliamentary term saw a great amount of co-operation between the two groups following on from the 1999–2004 term which saw an EPP-ELDR alliance. The Socialist candidate will be Martin Schulz who was unanimously nominated by the group.[11] Diana Wallis (Liberal) and Nirj Deva (Conservative) have also announced candidacies.[12][13]

Oldest members
Name Party State Date Age
Louise Weiss[14] EPP France 1979 86
1982 89
Jacqueline Thome-Patenôtre[15] RDE France 1984 78
Nikolaos Gazis S Greece 1987 83
Claude Autant-Lara European Right France 1989 88
Bruno Visentini ELDR Italy 1992 77
Vassilis Ephremidis GUE-NGL Greece 1994 79
Otto von Habsburg EPP Germany 1997 85
Giorgio Napolitano PES Italy 1999 74
2002 77
Giovanni Berlinguer[16] PES Italy 2004 80
2007 83
Ciriaco de Mita EPP Italy 2009 81
2012 83
Manolis Glezos GUE-NGL Greece 2014 91

Meanwhile, Graham Watson, the leader of ALDE, stated he wished to challenge this system of carving up the post, and presented himself as a candidate. He made a point of running a public campaign, to contrast against the closed-doors agreement of Peoples Party-Socialists, which he claimed was the first such campaign to be run. Through this, he also stated he hoped to open up a debate on the role of the President and make the figure more dynamic, to counterbalance the growing power of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.[17] However, on 8 July 2009 Watson announced that he withdrew his candidacy thus leaving Buzek with only one opponent. The other official candidate was Eva-Britt Svensson, nominated from EUL-NGL.[18] She campaigned with the slogan "a different voice". She was the first MEP from Sweden to candidate to the position.

In the first vote of the new Parliament Jerzy Buzek (EPP, Poland) was elected Parliament President, winning with 555 votes to 89 votes over his opponent Eva-Britt Svensson (EUL-NGL, Sweden).[19]

Oldest member

Prior to 2009, the "oldest member", the eldest MEP (similar to the Father of the House), presided over the chamber during the election of the President rather than the previous president. The member had all the duties of President but the only business that could be addressed was the election of the President.[7]

It had been feared that, after the 2009 elections, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a far-right MEP from France who had been convicted for Holocaust denial in his home country, might be the oldest member, aged 81.[20] In response to this concern, the Parliament's rules were changed (Corbett report) so that the outgoing President (if re-elected as an MEP) or one of the outgoing Vice-Presidents would chair the first session of Parliament until a new President was elected. Green co-head Daniel Cohn-Bendit wanted to change the rules so that the youngest member would chair the session, to reflect the future. In the event, after the election, former Italian Prime Minister Ciriaco de Mita was in fact the oldest member, rather than Le Pen.

List of office holders

Robert Schuman (1958–1960), first President of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Simone Veil (1979–1982), first President of the elected Parliament and the first female President.

The two major factions of the European Parliament, the EPP and the S&D, have reached a formal agreement to share the Presidency under the 2009–2014 term. Under the agreement, Jerzy Buzek will be President in the first half of the term and a S&D member would be elected in the second half (2012–2014) of the term.[21] Martin Schulz (SPD, Germany), leader of the S&D group, was speculated as the likely nominee, and in the event he was elected on 17 January 2012.

The list below includes all Presidents as far back as 1952. However official Parliamentary history does not see continuity between the Common Assembly and the post-1958 European Communities Parliamentary Assembly (the 50th anniversary of the European Parliament was celebrated in 2008, not 2002) so Jerzy Buzek would be the 24th President, not the 28th.

Dates in office Name Party Group Country
Presidents of the Common Assembly, 1952–1958
1952–1954 Paul-Henri Spaak BSP-PSB SOC  Belgium
1954[22] Alcide De Gasperi
DC CD  Italy
1954–1956 Giuseppe Pella DC CD  Italy
1956–1958 (1st) Hans Furler CDU CD  West Germany
Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly, 1958–1962
1958–1960 Robert Schuman MRP CD  France
1960–1962 (2nd) Hans Furler CDU CD  West Germany
Presidents of the appointed Parliament, 1962–1979
1962–1964 Gaetano Martino PLI LIB  Italy
1964–1965 Jean Duvieusart PSC CD  Belgium
1965–1966 Victor Leemans CVP CD  Belgium
1966–1969 Alain Poher MRP CD  France
1969–1971 Mario Scelba DC CD  Italy
1971–1973 Walter Behrendt SPD SOC  West Germany
1973–1975 Cornelis Berkhouwer VVD LIB  Netherlands
1975–1977 Georges Spénale PS SOC  France
1977–1979 Emilio Colombo DC CD  Italy
Term Presidents of the elected Parliament, 1979 onwards
1 July 1979–January 1982 Simone Veil UDF ELDR  France
January 1982–July 1984 Piet Dankert PvdA PES  Netherlands
2 July 1984–January 1987 Pierre Pflimlin UDF/RPR EPP  France
January 1987– July 1989 Charles Henry Plumb Conservative ED  United Kingdom
3 July 1989–January 1992 Enrique Barón Crespo PSOE PES  Spain
January 1992–July 1994 Egon Klepsch CDU EPP  Germany
4 July 1994–January 1997 Klaus Hänsch SPD PES  Germany
January 1997–20 July 1999 José María Gil-Robles PP EPP  Spain
5 20 July 1999–15 January 2002 Nicole Fontaine UMP EPP–ED  France
15 January 2002–20 July 2004 Pat Cox Ind ELDR  Ireland
6 20 July 2004–16 January 2007 Josep Borrell PSOE PES  Spain
16 January 2007–14 July 2009 Hans-Gert Pöttering CDU EPP–ED  Germany
7 14 July 2009–17 January 2012 Jerzy Buzek PO EPP  Poland
17 January 2012–18 June 2014 Martin Schulz SPD S&D  Germany
8 1 July 2014–present Martin Schulz SPD S&D  Germany

See also


  1. ^ a b Parliament began either in 1952 with the Common Assembly or 1958 with the Parliamentary Assembly.
  2. ^ a b "The President of the European Parliament".  
  3. ^ a b "Duties of the President".  
  4. ^ "Parliament's Protocol Service".  
  5. ^ Rettman, Andrew (15 March 2010) Ukraine gives positive appraisal of new-model EU, EU Observer
  6. ^ Settembri, Pierpaolo (2 February 2007). "Is the European Parliament competitive or consensual ... "and why bother"?" (PDF). Federal Trust. Retrieved 7 October 2007. 
  7. ^ a b "Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. Rule 11: Oldest member".  
  8. ^ "Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. Rule 13 : Election of President – opening address".  
  9. ^ "Former E.P. Presidents".  
  10. ^ Next EP president to be a Pole?
  11. ^ "PES congratulate Martin Schulz on nomination for European Parliament Presidency". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  12. ^ "Wallis launches bid to be Parliament president". Retrieved 2011-11-30. 
  13. ^ "The man to stop Schulz?". Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  14. ^  
  15. ^ The oldest member was Nikolaos Gazis (Socialist, Greece) but he was in hospital and unable to attend the session.
  17. ^ Watson, Graham (7 January 2009) Make me president: The next president of the European parliament should be a Lib Dem, and prove that not all Brits are anti-Europe, The Guardian
  18. ^ "GUE-NGL Press Release". Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  19. ^ "News on the Parliament Website". Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  20. ^ Traynor, Ian (26 March 2009). "MEPs move to deny extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen platform". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 April 2009. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ died 19 August 1954

External links

  • President of the European Parliament – Official Website
  • Duties of the President
  • Presidents of the European Parliament European Navigator
  • Results of Presidential elections 1979–2007
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