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News Analysis: Can EP's new president be game-changer?

By Miao Xiaojuan (Xinhua)

10:25, January 18, 2012

STRASBOURG, France, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- The European Parliament's new president Martin Schulz boldly demanded more decision-making power for the institution that represents 500 million Europeans, immediately after his election here on Tuesday.

The outspoken German MEP strongly complained about dozens of EU leaders' summits dedicated to solve the sovereign debt crisis over the past two years that "exclude directly-elected institutions like the Parliament," while addressing its plenary session here in Strasbourg.

"The Parliament wants a raised profile, wants its voice heard and wants to carry more weight," said Schulz, who has been an MEP since 1994 and the chair of the major Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group since 2004.

But will his mission be accomplished during a two-and-half-year term? There are certainly doubts with some good reasons as observed by politicians and scholars.

FOREGONE ELECTION

Schulz's election was a done deal between the Parliament's two largest groups, namely the centre-left S&D and the centre-right EPP (European People's Party), triggering much criticism from the other two candidates prior to the election.

Conservative MEP Nirj Deva and liberal MEP Dianna Wallis, both from Britain, tried but failed to challenge what had become a normal practice for the Parliament's presidency election.

While MEPs are elected for a five-year term, the Parliament's president and various vice-presidents only serve two and a half years, and thus the S&D and the EPP have decided to trade the presidency back and forth with joint votes to ensure an equal share for both.

It does not strike media or scholars any more, as Janis Emmanouilidis, an expert with the Brussels-based European Policy Center, said, "the election practice is much less significant than other democratic issues concerning the Parliament."

Nevertheless, the fact that Schulz only won 387 votes out of 670 valid votes cast on Tuesday, or slightly more than a half in favor, revealed a certain degree of dissatisfaction among the MEPs.

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