Roberta Metsola Elected as President of the EP on her Birthday
Defender of people with traditional sexual orientation, but an opponent of abortion. An unwavering fighter for the rule of law in her native Malta, but a much softer stance on similar issues in other EU countries. Supporter of the resettlement of migrants in the EU Community and at the same time author of a parliamentary report, which never succeeded in resolving the refugee crisis in Europe.
All of these conflicting assessments apply to Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, who was elected President of the European Parliament today during a plenary session in Strasbourg. This happened on her 43rd birthday.
Roberta Metsola was convincingly elected with 458 votes in favor in the first round. Her rivals were also women - Swedish “green” MP Alice Bah Kuhnke and Spaniard Sira Rego from the radical left. Polish conservative Kosma Zlotowski withdrew from the race this morning.
Metsola inherited David Sassoli, who died just a week ago. The previous President of the EP was ill for a long time and passed away due to complications in the immune system. However, his death is not a reason to change the president. As early as the election of Sassoli in 2019, it was agreed that the Italian Socialist would hold office for only one term, after which he would be succeeded by a representative of the European People's Party (EPP) - the first political force in Parliament. And the election was scheduled for the current session - the first for the new 2022.
In the first statement since her election, Metsola said Europe had a chance to become the first carbon-free continent and that the EU could take the lead.
“The digital transition is creating new opportunities and we need to stimulate these changes,” she said.
At the same time, the new EP President said the world around the Community was not as friendly as it had been a generation ago, and described attacks on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity as “unacceptable” and the situation in Belarus as “dangerous”. She highlighted collective security as a major challenge for the EU:
“For autocrats, the EU is a threat simply because it exists,” she said, adding that everyone in the European Parliament would oppose any attempt to destroy it. “We must put an end to the split in the last divided country in the Community – Cyprus”
Who is she
Her full name is Roberta Metsola Tedesco Triccas. She has been an MEP since 2013 when she won the seat vacated by her compatriot and party member in the by-elections.
Interestingly, she ran for the first time in the 2009 European elections but failed to enter. The same thing is happening with her Finnish husband Ukko Metsola, whose last name she bears. The two became the first married couple in history to run for the EP from two different countries.
Metsola will head the EP until the end of her term in the spring of 2024. As soon as she decided to run for office in November 2021, she said it would be a very difficult time for Parliament given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My goal is to make people in the member states believe in Europe,” the Maltese said at the time.
And she promised to do so by building alliances and building bridges to pro-European forces in the EP.
Roberta Metsola is one of the most influential MEPs. The fact that she manages her job, even though she is the mother of four sons, also contributes to this. And she is only 43 years old.
In fact, she is not a new face for the EU. From 2004 to 2012, she was a legal attaché at her country's representation in the Union. She held the same position in the office of Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU's first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Opponents of Metsola point out her opposition to abortion. It is banned in conservative and Catholic Malta. But the people of the island nation also support this ban. As an MEP, Metsola has repeatedly voted against resolutions calling for women's rights and access to abortion. She even opposed declaring abortion a human right. With which she drew the wrath of MEPs from the center and the left.
As a member of the EP's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs, Metsola fought for the resettlement of migrants across the EU. This was welcomed in Malta, one of the main points of entry into Europe by sea from the Middle East and Africa.
Metsola later produced a report calling for a more “comprehensive” EU approach to migration. So far, the 27 member states have never reached a serious agreement on the issue.
At the same time, however, the Maltese MEP has called for an investigation by Frontex, the EU's external border protection agency, over allegations of illegal repulsion of migrants.
In her native Malta, Metsola is one of the most ardent critics of the ruling Labor Party over the 2017 assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Galicia was investigating high-level corruption.
However, her opponents in Malta accuse her of acting too selectively. They point out that she voted against an EP resolution on the state of the rule of law in Slovenia. And in the former Yugoslav republic, the center-right is in power, i.e. like the same party that Metsola is in.
The Bulgarian footprint
Roberta Metsola became famous in Bulgaria as a defender of ex-PM Boyko Borissov. In October 2020, she introduced a number of amendments to the EP resolution on the rule of law in our country. One claimed that protests against Borissov's government last summer had been paid for by a businessman hiding abroad. Although his name was not mentioned, it was clear to everyone that it was Vasil Bozhkov.
Because of this, a torrent of attacks from Bulgaria was poured on Metsola on social networks. She withdrew this amendment.
Although it adopted the resolution, the EP also rejected Roberto Metsola's other amendments. They attacked President Rumen Radev and his advisers Plamen Uzunov and Iliya Milushev, although their names were not mentioned.
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