A vote in the European Parliament, which began its new five-year term on Tuesday, elevated Italian socialist politician David Sassoli to the position of president of the EU Parliament, Reuters reports. Of course, the anointing of a socialist to lead the European Union's biggest body of lawmakers won't exactly assuage the concerns of everybody who has worried that the EU Is beginning to too closely resemble another nominally Democratic 'union' of supposedly independent republics.
Sassoli will succeed another Italian, conservative politician Antonio Tajani, who had served as speaker since 2017. Sassoli is a 63-year-old politician from Florence, who previously worked as a journalist before entering politics. He has been a lawmaker in the European Parliament for a decade.
Sassoli's election follows the nomination of Christine Lagarde as the new head of the ECB, Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission, Charles Michel as president of the European Council and Joseph Borrell - a Spanish socialist - as high representative for the union of foreign affairs and security policy.
As parliamentary president, Sassoli's is the first of the EU's top jobs to be formally filled (Lagarde and the rest have all been nominated, but they must now be confirmed by the parliament). He will hold the job for half of the parliament's five-year term, meaning the socialists and center-left will likely control the bloc for the first half of its term. In the second half, control will pass to the center-right.
According to the Financial Times, Sassoli beat rival candidates from the Greens, far-left and Eurosceptic right. The vote took two rounds after Sassoli failed to win a majority by seven votes in the first ballot.
Jan Zahradil, a Czech candidate from the Eurosceptic ECR, came in second, but Sassoli's victory ensured that no candidates from Eastern Europe, a hotbed for populists and eurosceptics, will hold any of the bloc's top jobs.
In short, Europe's two most popular parliamentarians are i) a socialist and ii) a person who wants to end the EU. Yes, confusing.
The Italian beat out Sergei Stanishev, a former Bulgarian prime minister, as the center-left's nominee, despite the bloc's stated wish for more 'diversity' - geographic, gender and otherwise - among its top representatives.