ADVERTISEMENT

Political leaders recall highs and lows of term as curtain falls on the European Parliament

MEPs vote during a plenary session on Strasbourg, France, on April 24, 2024.
MEPs vote during a plenary session on Strasbourg, France, on April 24, 2024. Copyright EP
Copyright EP
By Vincenzo GenoveseMared Gwyn Jones
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

As Members of the European Parliament gathered in Strasbourg for the last plenary session before June’s elections, Euronews asked the presidents of major political groups to reflect on the highs and lows of the past five-year mandate.

Manfred Weber - European People's Party (EPP)

ADVERTISEMENT

Asked to recall the mandate's biggest success, the chairman of the centre-right EPP group harked back to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The biggest achievement for sure was to restart the European economic engine after the corona crisis. The Recovery Resilience Fund was for sure the most important decision in this mandate," he explained, recalling the EU's record-smashing €723.8 billion temporary recovery instrument.

Manfred Weber, EPP Chairman
Manfred Weber, EPP ChairmanJean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Weber also named measures taken to curb climate change among his biggest highlights, despite his EPP party coming under fire for a recent backlash against the Green Deal, the bloc’s landmark set of laws to curb rising global temperatures.

Unsurprisingly, the Parliament’s biggest failure according to Weber was its decision not to uphold the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process, whereby each party fields a lead candidate to bid for the Commission presidency. Weber himself was pushed aside by EU leaders in his bid to preside over the EU’s powerful executive arm back in 2019, which led to Ursula von der Leyen being parachuted into the role despite not officially running.

"We (the parliament) did a big mistake not supporting the Spitzenkandidaten idea, the idea to have a democratic Europe where people know before they go to the elections who the candidate will be," he explained, censuring his coalition partners for not backing the idea.

Iratxe García Pérez - Socialists and Democrats (S&D)

S&D Group President Iratxe García Pérez
S&D Group President Iratxe García PérezPhilippe STIRNWEISS/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP

For the socialists’ president, the term is too full of successes to select one: “It’s been a very intense, exceptional and extraordinary legislature,” she said, listing Brexit, the post-pandemic recovery and the EU response to the war in Ukraine as major achievements.

"We've been able to answer all those challenges while maintaining (focus on) Europe's priorities: spurring on the green agenda, the rule of law and all the policies needed to maintain the European social pillar."

She also hailed the first EU law to combat violence against women, approved on Wednesday, as a momentous achievement, despite its failure to include any provisions on rape after pushback from member states.

When asked about the mandate's low points, García Pérez denounced the bloc's failure to conclude the embattled Nature Restoration Law, the EU's plan to reverse biodiversity loss in at least 20% of the EU's land and sea by the end of the decade. The bill is currently on the brink of collapse as member states withdraw support.

Philippe Lamberts - The Greens

The Greens Group's co-president Philippe Lamberts
The Greens Group's co-president Philippe LambertsPhilippe STIRNWEISS/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP

The Greens group's co-president, who bid an emotional farewell to the hemicycle on Wednesday after 15 years as an MEP, told Euronews he was most proud of the parliament's achievements in shaping the Green Deal, which he said were "the first steps only in the transition of the EU in trying to meet (...) our share in meeting the planetary boundaries."

"It's far from complete, despite what many say," he added, in a clear nod to the right-leaning groups in the parliament.

The first of two failures from Lamberts' point of view were the new fiscal rules, designed to return to tighter fiscal controls following laxer rules post-pandemic, which were rubber-stamped this week. He described the new norms as a "fiscal straitjacket" that will make the Green Deal and supporting Ukraine "financially impossible."

He also spurned the asylum and migration pact, the sweeping overhaul of the EU's migration and asylum policy, which he believes "will not solve anything" and is "just making a joke of the European values."

Nicola Procaccini - European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)

ECR co-president Nicola Procaccini
ECR co-president Nicola ProcacciniAlexis HAULOT/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP

The co-president of the right-wing conservative ECR group hailed the parliament's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as one of the mandate's biggest successes.

"At that moment, the European Union understood the danger," he explained, hailing the 13 package of sanctions against Russia and the bloc's unprecedented donations of economic and military aid.

He added that had the EU not unwaveringly backed the people of Ukraine, the bloc would have risked triggering a chain of events that could have "set fire to the whole of Europe."

For Procaccini, developing the Green Deal "without interacting with the people" it impacts was the parliament's greatest error. In their manifesto agreed Tuesday, his ECR group vowed to turn the Green Deal "on its head."

Marco Zanni - Identity and Democracy (ID)

Identity and Democracy president Marco Zanni
Identity and Democracy president Marco ZanniAlain ROLLAND/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP

For the parliament's far-right group, the biggest win of the mandate was having brought its priorities to the agenda of the parliament, despite being a "minority group," its president told Euronews.

ADVERTISEMENT

Zanni named immigration, the "protection" of farmers and a more "pragmatic approach" to the Green Deal as some of the issues it had brought to the table.

"In short, we have managed to modify the agenda of the parliament," he claimed.

He said that there were "many issues and failures" in the parliament's work, but named the chamber's long-standing "cordon sanitaire," the firewall designed to ward off the far-right from wielding much influence, as its biggest downfall.

"It is a pity that there are still some here who believe that some (parties) should be excluded just because they have different ideas," Zanni said.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

Roberta Metsola appeals to voters ahead of European Elections: ‘You have a choice’

Closed for business: The 11 moments that defined the European Parliament's term

EU Parliament 'ready' for requests to lift MEPs' immunity in Russian influence probe, says Metsola