Roberta Metsola could very soon become President of the European Parliament, the most important political position a Maltese politician has ever held.
It’s an extremely sensitive role that will give her a loud voice at the very upper echelons of international politics and put her in direct touch with some of the world’s greatest movers and shakers.
But what powers will be vested in Metsola should MEPs decide to trust her with their vote on Tuesday?
The role of European Parliament President is similar to that of the Speaker of national parliaments. Metsola will get to open plenary debates in Strasbourg, sometimes even with her own speech, instruct MEPs when it is their turn to speak, ensure parliamentary procedures are properly followed, direct voting procedures and announce voting results.
Her signature will be required for EU laws and the EU budget to pass.
She will also chair the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, where presidents of the EP’s political groups convene to draw up the parliament’s agenda.
With several political forces at play to decide which topics should be prioritised over others, Metsola will have to master the art of compromise and political savviness.
Metsola will also be given some bureaucratic responsibilities, chairing the Bureau of the European Parliament, which discusses administrative and budgetary issues in collaboration with the 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors.
Most importantly, as president, Metsola will essentially be the face of the Parliament when dealing with the outside world, including discussions with leaders of EU member states, other countries, NGOs and associations and other EU institutions.
She will represent the parliament in all legal matters and at all international fora, including at European Council meetings, where she will deliver the EP’s views to heads of state and government of the EU’s 27 member states, including Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela.
This will mean she will be involved in international politics at the highest level.
Besides internal affairs, Metsola will also be expected to represent the European Parliament’s position on issues in press briefings and interviews, which could go some way towards shaping public perception of the Parliament and the EU in general.
Metsola will need to be constantly on the ball, able to quickly switch her focus from one complex issue to another as she moves from meeting to meeting.
For example, this is the president’s agenda for a week in July last year.
On Monday, the president (the late Sassoli back then) delivered a video speech at an event about the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU, opened a plenary session and chaired a Bureau meeting.
On Tuesday morning, he held a meeting with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and addressed a press conference with him, along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In the afternoon, he addressed a conference of European Parliament delegation chairs and held a meeting with European Commission vice-president Margarita’s chinas.
His Wednesday started with a meeting with an association petitioning the release of Patrick Zaki, a Coptic Egyptian student who has been detained in Egypt since 2020, and continued with an evening reception with Strasbourg mayor Jeanne Barseghian.
His Thursday was occupied with the Conference of Presidents and on Friday he attended a reception of the Boniface VIII International Prize in the Italian town of Anagni.
Saturday was free and he closed off his week by attending an event to commemorate the Cibeno Nazi massive, along with Ursula von der Leyen.
It’s an extremely tricky job that will require her to put everything she has learned about diplomacy, negotiations and public relations to the test, all while an international spotlight is cast upon her.
At times, Metsola must also be ready to place her personal opinion aside to vocalise the European Parliament’s stance. For example, now that the EP has declared abortion access to be a human right, Metsola will have to publicly adopt that position, even though she has previously voted against it.
As for Malta, while the nation will technically lose one of its six MEPs in plenary and committee sessions, it will gain so much more. Metsola will be able to indirectly lobby for Maltese interests on issues such as migration when, for example, setting the Parliament’s agenda.
Possibly more importantly, she can help shape the international perception of Malta, which has suffered a beating in recent years, in the interplay and small talk that she will get to enjoy with European and world leaders in between official meetings.
Although the public will not get to see this straight out, Metsola’s intervention could be crucial and long-lasting in improving Malta’s standing within the global community.
If this healing process is successful, Malta’s gratitude would be immense.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Cover photos: Left: Roberta Metsola, Right: Roberta Metsola with French president Emmanuel Macron (Photos: Roberta Metsola: Facebook)
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