A strange week with Monday and Tuesday taken up with voting for the next President of Parliament, vice Presidents and ....
As expected, or rather ordained, Martin Schultz the German leader of the S & D group won with 387 votes to 142 for Nirj Deva, Tory South East and 141 for Diana Wallis, Lib Dem Yorkshire. This is a much smaller majority than for previous incumbents.
In his acceptance speech Schultz said he was a President for all the MEPs..... wants the community method to become the norm.... but actually commented that failure of the EU was possibility. To most that was a warning, to us a happy new year.
The outstanding issue this week was the appearance of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. This was by special request of the Parliament in order to query him over alleged malpractice under his government. You will get a flavour of his reception from this press extract,-
"Orban in EP: Desperate for a European rescue, Hungary offers an olive branch (The Times, p.35): "Hungary's conservative Prime Minister bowed yesterday to European pressure and promised to revise laws deemed to breach EU rules on democratic governance. But Viktor Orbán remained defiant over his mission to reshape his nation. In a stormy session of the European Parliament, Mr Orbán backed down on parts of his new constitution that became the subject of infringement litigation by the European Commission this week. These cover curbs on the independence of the Hungarian National Bank, the early retirement of judges and supervision of the country's data protection authority. (...) Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Franco-German leader of the big Green group, told Mr Orbán that he was taking the path of "all the totalitarian regimes" and compared him with Venezuela's President Chávez and Cuba's Fidel Castro. To widespread applause, he proposed sending a parliamentary mission to "find out why the homeless in Hungary, the intellectuals, people from my family ... Jews in Hungary, are afraid today." Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal group and a former Belgian Prime Minister, said that the Commission had "missed the broader picture" by focusing on legal issues."
President Orban did not seem desperate to be rescued by the EU and he did not back down in the way suggested. He maintained impassive throughout a 2/3 hour grilling, with many MEPs putting an oar in. He gave no ground and refused to answer the many individual points raised, good job too, we'd still be there.
This extract does not indicate the hostile and vindictive attitude of so many of the leading MEPs; especially Verhofstadt, they were just plain nasty. I do not know how many of their allegations are justified but I do know this; these MEPs are not qualified to assault him in the way they did. To clarify, he is a conservative, so no prizes for guessing whence came the worst attacks. Parliament should be above party politics when receiving a democratically elected Head of State. Consider;-
A month ago an MEP of the NGL (Nordic Green Left) complained that Parliament was becoming more and more anti- communist.
Cohn-Bendit's contribution noted above is typical of one who, two years ago, insulted the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, who had spoken out against the EU in Parliament. The resulting delegation to the Czech Republic included Cohn-Bendit and met in Prague castle, the official residence of the Czech President. Cohn-Bendit actually told Klaus that he should take down the Czech flag above the Castle and replace it with the Euro flag!
Ms Harms, Greens, told the House a year ago that Vaclav Klaus was a trouble maker!
Orban was defended by several Hungarian MEPs and, especially, by Zbigniev Ziobro, one of four Polish MEPs to have joined us in EFD this week.