Tuesday in the European Parliament

Key Points

  • The European Parliament returns for its first plenary session since the May 2014 elections.
  • Today marks the official start of the 8th mandate of the European Parliament.
  • Today will be solely taken up by voting for the President of the European Parliament and - if time - the 14 Vice-Presidents.

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  1.  
    08:57:

    Well a very good morning and a warm welcome back to Democracy Live's online coverage of the European Parliament's plenary session from Strasbourg.

     
  2.  
    08:57:

    MEPs - many of whom were only elected a few weeks ago - are gathering in the chamber, as are the Philarmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg.

     
  3.  
    09:00:

    You can see there two of the unsuccessful candidates to win the nomination to president of the European Commission - the Liberals' Guy Verhofstadt, and the Greens' Ska Keller, smiling and chatting.

     
  4.  
    09:01:

    An interesting mix being shown of veteran and newly appointed MEPs - there's a real sense of anticipation. You saw chatting there the one remaining UK Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, alongside Jean Lambert from the Green Party.

     
  5.  
    09:04:

    The acting President of the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella formally opens the sitting of the European Parliament - the parliament's eighth mandate.

     
  6.  
    09:05:

    MEPs - most of them - stand, as the anthem of the European Union - Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" is being played by the Philarmonic Orchestra of Strasbourg.

     
  7.  
    09:10:

    Applause breaks out across the chamber as the orchestra take a bow.

     
  8.  
    09:12:

    Mr Pittella announces the some of the formalities - reminding that MEPs may not formally participate in debates until they have signed the declaration.

     
  9.  
    09:13:

    He tells MEPs what a "privilege" it is to be the provisional president. Referring to May's elections results he says that "Europe's voters have voted for change".

     
  10.  
    09:13:

    First item of business - indeed virtually the only item today - will be the election of a new president of the European Parliament.

     
  11.  
    09:14:

    Each of the four candidates are making their pitch - starting with Spanish MEP Iglesias Turrion, from the left-wing European United Left group.

     
  12.  
    09:15:

    Mr Turrion was elected as a candidate for the Podemos party, and is a well known TV presenter in his native Spain, as well as being a professor of Political Science. in Madrid.

     
  13.  
    09:16:

    "The desire of Europe's peoples is to be free", he says, but warns "the people who fought for Europe's freedom did not fight for this kind of Europe, with people living in poverty".

     
  14.  
    09:17:

    He accuses the European Parliament of being a target for lobbyists.

     
  15.  
    09:19:

    Each speaker is allowed just five minutes to make their pitch - although Mr Turrion is already following the time-honoured tradition of European Parliaments gone by and exceeding his speaking time.

     
  16.  
    09:21:

    Mr Pittella tries to get him to finish his speech - "this is unfair to the others". Mr Turrion finishes his speech, and receives a standing ovation from other members of the GUE group.

     
  17.  
    09:22:

    Speaking next is the Conservative group candidate, Sajjad Karim.

     
  18.  
    09:22:

    "There is a message that requires us to change our ways", he tells MEPs.

     
  19.  
    09:23:

    He says there is "nothing more sacred" than the right to vote, rejecting claims that people should just accept the "done deal" between the main groups - the EPP and the Socialists.

     
  20.  
    09:23:

    "What have we become if the office of President is reduced to nothing more than a bargaining chip" he asks.

     
  21.  
    09:24:

    "This is a shoddy, shabby, shameful vision of our Union", adds the North West MEP.

     
  22.  
    09:26:

    And he continues, "I believe the president of Parliament should not use his office to advance his political career or express his political opinions".

     
  23.  
    09:28:

    The next candidate to make their pitch is the Green group Ulrike Lunacek, from Austria.

     
  24.  
    09:29:

    "We are not their to rubber stamp a pre-cooked deal" says Ms Lunacek.

     
  25.  
    09:30:

    "Democracy is about choices" she repeats in four languages - English, French, German and Greek.

     
  26.  
    09:31:

    She stresses her political priorities and says the European Parliament needs to lead by examples, such as greater transparency and more energy efficient buildings.

     
  27.  
    09:31:

    She states - "we need a single seat", an issue that is expected to return time and time again during the coming parliament.

     
  28.  
    09:33:

    "If we don't get it right now, there will be no extra time and no replays," she adds, in a non to the World Cup.

     
  29.  
    09:34:

    The final speaker now is the socialist candidate Martin Schulz.

     
  30.  
    09:34:

    Mr Schulz is also backed by the centre-right EPP group and was the president in the previous two and a half years.

     
  31.  
    09:35:

    Many MEPs have expressed disquiet at the "deal" between the EPP and the S&D which would see a socialist candidate for the first two and a half years, followed by an EPP candidate for the remainder of the parliamentary term.

     
  32.  
    09:35:

    The leader of the European Parliament must work for the good of the peoples of the 28 member states.

     
  33.  
    09:37:

    Being president has "been the greatest privilege of my life".

     
  34.  
    09:37:

    "This European Parliament is here and it means business, and it is the home of democratic legitimacy in Europe". he adds.

     
  35.  
    09:39:

    And so all four candidates have made their pitch and it's time to vote.

     
  36.  
    09:40:

    An MEP from Germany's Alternative für Deutschland is the first MEP to make a point of order. She refers to a particular rule in the Rules of Procedure and calls for the presidential vote to take place under a roll-call vote.

     
  37.  
    09:40:

    Mr Pittella insists that the rules only allow for a secret ballot.

     
  38.  
    09:42:

    Lots are now being drawn for the 8 MEPs who will act as "scrutineers" - many of whom may have only officially been MEPs for about half an hour.

     
  39.  
    09:43:

    To be elected as President, an MEP must win an absolute majority of the votes cast, ie 50% plus one.

     
  40.  
    09:45:

    And that's it - votes are now open.

     
  41.  
    09:45:

    If no candidate obtains a majority in the first round, further rounds may take place.

     
  42.  
    09:49:

    If, after three rounds of voting nobody has obtained a majority, a fourth ballot will take place, where a candidate has to achieve a simple majority of votes cast.

     
  43.  
    09:49:

    Blank or spoiled ballots do not count in calculating the majority required.

     
  44.  
    09:51:

    A reminder, whilst the votes are taking place, of the seven groups that have been formed within the European Parliament.

     
  45.  
    09:51:

    The centre-right European People's Party has 221 seats, with the Socialist group (the S&D) in second place on 191 seats.

     
  46.  
    09:51:

    May's elections saw the centre-right EPP remain as the largest group in the European Parliament, but with a drop in the number of seats.

     
  47.  
    09:53:

    Third place went to the Conservative ECR group (70 seats), followed by the Liberals on 67 seats.

     
  48.  
    09:54:

    In fifth place was the European United Left with 52 seats, just ahead of the Green group on 50 seats.

     
  49.  
    09:55:

    The seventh largest group is the Eurosceptic EFDD group, with 48 seats, the majority of which come from UKIP.

     
  50.  
    10:02:

    Want to know where your MEPs sit? The newly updated seating plan for Strasbourg has now been published.

     
  51.  
    10:09:

    Looks like most MEPs have now voted - we're awaiting an announcement from acting President, Gianni Pittella.

     
  52.  
    10:15:

    Mr Pittella resumes his seat, and announces a suspension of the sitting, whilst the votes are counted. We'll be back just as soon as we have the results.

     
  53.  
    10:54:

    Just to point out, for those of your unfamiliar with European Parliament practices - most votes here take place on an electronic vote. This form of voting secretly with ballot boxes is a rarity and primarily used for the voting of presidents and vice-presidents.

     
  54.  
    10:57:

    A bit of activity taking place in the chamber, so it could be that we are near to having the result of the first ballot.

     
  55.  
    11:05:

    Gianni Pittella resumes his seat - we have a result.

     
  56.  
    11:06:

    Photographers gather around Martin Schulz - looks like he may have won on the first ballot.

     
  57.  
    11:07:

    Summary: 723 votes cast - 111 spoilt votes. 612 valid votes. 307 needed for an absolute majority.

     
  58.  
    11:07:

    Martin Schulz elected President of the European Parliament.

     
  59.  
    11:08:

    In summary: Martin Schulz: 409, Sajjad Karim: 101, Ulrika Luancek: 51, Iglesias Turrion: 51.

     
  60.  
    11:09:

    Mr Schulz - now formally elected President of the European Parliament - thanks his supporters and pays tribute to the defeated candidates.

     
  61.  
    11:11:

    Mr Schulz becomes the first European Parliament to serve two terms as president since the 1960s.

     
  62.  
    11:12:

    He continues his acceptance speech by praising the enhanced role of the European Parliament in the appointment of the president of the European Commission.

     
  63.  
    11:12:

    Moving on to policy areas, he laments the "desperation and lack of hope in Europe" caused by the crisis of youth unemployment.

     
  64.  
    11:17:

    Referring to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Mr Schulz says: "If we want the EU to be taken seriously as a force for peace, we need to ensure that those people who want to trade with the EU accept the rule of law and not the rule of the stronger against the weaker".

     
  65.  
    11:19:

    Ending his speech, he thanks MEPs for their trust, and receives applause from colleagues.

     
  66.  
    11:21:

    The sitting is now suspended and we will return at 2pm BST for coverage of the election of vice-presidents.

     
  67.  
    13:55:

    Welcome back - the afternoon session will be getting underway shortly.

     
  68.  
    14:02:

    The session will get underway shortly, beginning with the election of the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament.

     
  69.  
    14:04:

    The session begins with Mr Schulz officially announcing the seven groups that have been formed in the European Parliament - see the full list here.

     
  70.  
    14:06:

    The candidates for the 14 vice-presidents are being announced.

     
  71.  
    14:08:

    As for this morning, the names of tellers to oversee the process are being drawn at random.

     
  72.  
    14:09:

    Unlike for the president, for the vice-president election there are just two tellers.

     
  73.  
    14:10:

    Mr Schulz points out that a secret ballot is needed as there are more candidates than seats, and goes on to explain the rather complex rules.

     
  74.  
    14:11:

    And so, the vote is open - but we have a point of order to be raised from British Labour MEP Neena Gill.

     
  75.  
    14:12:

    Ms Gill was previously a Labour MEP but lost her seat in 2009, before being re-elected last May. She suggests that it would have been nice for speeches to be made by the candidates.

     
  76.  
    14:28:

    MEPs are queuing up to cast their vote in the ballot box - we can expect up to three rounds of voting. There is contingency in the schedule for the final vote to take place tomorrow if there are time pressures today.

     
  77.  
    14:32:

    Mr Schulz asks MEPs if they have all cast their vote. "No" shout some voices.

     
  78.  
    14:36:

    The votes in the first round of voting is complete - and votes are being counted. Sitting suspended until then.

     
  79.  
    15:48:

    We are still waiting for the announcement of the results of the first round of voting for the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament.

     
  80.  
    15:49:

    Each vice-president has a different area of responsibility, such as multilingualism or relations with national parliaments.

     
  81.  
    16:00:

    Some activity around the officials' desk, meaning we may be close to an announcement.

     
  82.  
    16:07:

    Martin Schulz resumes his seat and we should soon hear the result of the first round of voting.

     
  83.  
    16:08:

    729 votes cast - 359 needed for an absolute majority.

     
  84.  
    16:10:

    Six MEPs have passed the 359 needed to secure a majority and are thus elected automatically.

     
  85.  
    16:10:

    So eight posts are needed to be filled.

     
  86.  
    16:11:

    The head of the centre-right group EPP, Manfred Weber, calls for a 10 minute adjournment so that the group can have an "internal discussion".

     
  87.  
    16:11:

    The sitting is suspended until 4:20pm BST.

     
  88.  
    16:16:

    And so the six candidates elected on the first round are: Antonio Tajani (EPP), Mairead McGuinness (EPP), Rainer Wieland (EPP), Ramon-Luis Valcarcel Siso (EPP), Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (EPP) and Adina-Ioana Valean (EPP).

     
  89.  
    16:19:

    Just to highlight, all six candidates through so far are from the EPP.

     
  90.  
    16:20:

    And so now to the second round of voting.

     
  91.  
    16:21:

    For the second round, interestingly, we have an electronic vote.

     
  92.  
    16:23:

    Martin Schulz is currently explaining to MEPs how the electronic vote will take place. It uses the "blue light", as it is a secret ballot - rather than the red or green lights usually used for simple for/against votes.

     
  93.  
    16:26:

    As has been done before - a test electronic vote is taking place, with MEPs voting for.....opera singers!

     
  94.  
    16:33:

    The formal electronic vote for the remaining eight vice-presidents is now taking place.

     
  95.  
    16:37:

    And so on the second round of voting, four further candidates are elected: Corina Cretu (S&D), Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), David-Maria Sassoli (S&D) and Olli Rehn (ALDE).

     
  96.  
    16:38:

    We now have a third round of voting to fill the final four places, with five candidates remaining.

     
  97.  
    16:38:

    Interestingly two of the Vice-Presidents to have been elected are former European Commissioners - Antonio Tajani and Olli Rehn.

     
  98.  
    16:40:

    The electronic vote for round three is still taking place.

     
  99.  
    16:40:

    To summarise in round two - there were 704 votes cast, of which 13 were invalid. Meanwhile 346 was the threshhold to be elected.

     
  100.  
    16:44:

    Martin Schulz announces a correction - Olli Rehn was in fact not elected in round two of voting, apparenly the wrong result was read out. This means there are FIVE places to be filled with six candidates. So far the tally is: EPP 6, S&D: 3.

     
  101.  
    16:46:

    We have a result - the five remaining posts are to be filled by: Olli Rehn (ALDE), Alex Lambsdorff (ALDE), Ulrike Lunacek (Green), Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE) and Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR).

     
  102.  
    16:47:

    The only candidate who failed to get elected was the Italian MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo, an MEP from the Five Star Movement, part of the eurosceptic EFDD group.

     
  103.  
    16:48:

    And that bring to an end today's constitutive session of the European Parliament - a day that saw Martin Schulz re-elected as president of the parliament, and 14 vice-presidents appointed.

     
  104.  
    16:48:

    Business gets underway tomorrow morning from 8am BST, with a debate on the outcomes of last week's summit of EU leaders. There will also be a review of the outgoing Greek presidency of the EU and a look ahead to the priorities of the Italian presidency.

     
  105.  
    16:49:

    Until then, thank you for your company, and a very good evening.

     

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