European Union leaders are informally suggesting that Party of European Socialists leader and Bulgarian MEP Sergei Stanishev be elected for a two-and-a-half-year term as President of the European Parliament, to be succeeded by German politician Manfred Weber, who was the centre-right European People’s Party candidate to head the European Commission, for the remainder of the new European Parliament’s term, reports said.
This emerged after a meeting of the European Council on July 2 agreed on the nominations for the other four top posts in the EU – European Commission President, European Council President, head of the European Central Bank and EU foreign policy chief.
It remains to be seen whether the European Parliament, whose prerogative it is to decide who its President is, will agree to the reported recommendation of the two successive presiding officers.
Bulgarian National Radio reported current European Council President Donald Tusk as saying that it was the European Parliament that elects its leadership – “we have no say” but saying that “we hope that a representative of Central and Eastern Europe will be elected as President in the first half-term term of office”.
According to Tusk, the idea was that the first half of the European Parliament’s term would see a socialist as President of the EU legislature, and the second half would go to the EPP.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, leader of the centre-right GERB party – part of the EPP – said that his MEPs would support Stanishev if the PES leader was nominated as European Parliament President.
Borissov made reference to the infighting in the Bulgarian Socialist Party ahead of the May 2019 European Parliament elections, which saw BSP leader Kornelia Ninova attempt to keep Stanishev off the BSP EP candidate election list altogether.
Ninova’s bid failed, but when it came to electing the group leader in the European Parliament of Bulgaria’s socialists, Stanishev – who was the longest-standing leader of the BSP and is a former Prime Minister – lost out to a lesser-known figure.
Borissov told reporters: “It probably is difficult at the moment to explain how he (Stanishev) is not the chairman of his group of four or five MEPs, because his party has not given him that right, but he will lead the European Parliament”.
“A Bulgarian in that position (European Parliament President) is only a matter of honour and pride, even if his people in Bulgaria do not like him,” Borissov said.
In Bulgaria’s May 2019 European Parliament elections, Ninova’s pick for list leader, Elena Yoncheva, came in first on the BSP party list. Preferential voting raised Stanishev from the fifth place that he had been allocated after Ninova’s bid to exclude him was defeated, but he still came in behind Yoncheva.
Stanishev and his successor but one as leader of the BSP, Ninova, have been at loggerheads on a number of high-profile issues, including proposed Bulgarian adoption of the Istanbul Convention, which Stanishev supported and Ninova – along with conservative and far-right forces – opposed. Ninova’s leadership of the BSP has been called into question over her failure, since being elected party leader in May 2016, to lead the party to election victory.
Stanishev became BSP leader in December 2001. He was elected PES president in September 2012. He became an MEP in May 2014, when Bulgaria held European Parliament elections that were largely a referendum against the “Oresharski” administration that Stanishev had been instrumental in putting together. Against the background of a long succession of BSP electoral defeats under his leadership, Stanishev stepped down as BSP leader in July 2014.
(Photo of Stanishev: PES)