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After the relative excitement of last week’s European Summit, resulting in the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the European Commission, the focus has passed to the newly elected European Parliament. It met in Strasbourg this week for the first time since the May elections. Over 50% of the Members are actually new, leading one Brussels hack to tweet that day one in the hemicycle was selfie paradise.

A striking start

The week had got off to an inauspicious start. The specially chartered train that takes Parliament and MEPs’ staff and other EU institution personnel from Brussels and Strasbourg on the Monday of every plenary week, fell victim to a Belgian railways strike. If the campaign for Brussels as the single seat of the European Parliament needed any more supporters, Monday’s five-hour journey on a bus replacement service should have proved a fertile recruiting ground.

First on the Strasbourg agenda was the election of the Parliament’s President. Thanks to a backroom deal done in his favour by the three mainstream political groups, it was no surprise that the outgoing President and the socialist group’s nominee for the top Commission job, Martin Schultz, beat three other candidates and was duly elected for 2 ½ years. He makes history as the first Parliament President to be re-elected.

Job creation

The divvying up of Parliamentary jobs has continued all week. Voting for the Vice Chairs of the Parliament proved tactical, blocking the election of any candidate from the UKIP- and 5 Star Movement-led EFDD group. MEPs also formally approved the 20 Parliamentary Committee Chairs. Importantly the Socialist group will take the helm on Economic & Monetary Affairs, the committee which saw the largest volume of regulation in the last legislature in the wake of the financial crisis.

The centre-right EPP group takes on the chairs of two other big content-driven committees, Environment and Industry & Energy, as well as Agriculture. But perhaps the least expected result was that the ECR is retaining the chair of the Internal Market Committee, long the bastion of British Conservative Malcolm Harbour and now handed on to his colleague Vicky Ford. With the Chairs now in place, the exact membership of each Committee is firming up.


In danger of becoming too engrossed in the details of its own internal business, the Parliament was treated to a rare breath of fresh air. Matteo Renzi, the youthful Italian Prime Minister, was scheduled to present the priorities of the next six months under his Italian Presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers but instead gave a rousing speech on his vision for a return to European values. His plea for a less “resigned” and a more digital Europe, to foster economic growth, was received with much applause.

More politics to come

As MEPs recover from their first session in Strasbourg, the politics continue. Assuming MEPs endorse Mr Juncker as Commission President on 16 July, the EU leaders will meet for dinner the following day to agree who will be Herman Van Rompuy’s replacement as the President of the Council; the new Chair of the Eurozone group of countries; and Europe’s high representative for foreign affairs. They will then also have to nominate formally their country’s candidate for President Juncker’s future team of Commissioners. Summer holiday plans will have to wait just a little bit longer.