Nigel Farage’s group shunned as two incumbents, Toia and Ransdorf re-appointed vice-chairs, and are joined by newcomers Henkel and Petersen
The gavel was struck for the first time in the new European Parliament on Monday when Jerzy Buzek was confirmed as the research committee chair.
“Thank you for your confidence, thank you for your trust,” said Buzek, accepting his role at the head of the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee. “I can guarantee openness and fairness.” The Polish MEP, a member of the centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP) party, is a former president of the European Parliament and was prime minister of Poland between 1997 and 2001.
The committee also held elections for the four vice-chair positions. Italian MEP Patrizia Toia of the socialist group (S&Ds) will continue in her role as first vice-chair of the committee and the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group’s Miloslav Ransdorf retains his second vice-chair position too.
The right-wing European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group's newly elected Hans-Olaf Henkel, from Germany, took the third vice-chair spot. With no challengers for any of the three positions, each contest was approved without a ballot.
The fourth vice-chair position was a straight shootout between newcomers: the Danish liberal Morten Helveg Petersen (ALDE group) and Dario Tamburrano, an Italian member of Nigel Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group.
Petersen won the secret ballot, 37 votes to 17, in a continuation of the overall trend of the EFDD finding itself shut-out of the top jobs in the Parliament. Tamburrano accepted defeat but criticised what he claimed was a general carve-up of key jobs by the three largest groups, EPP, S&D and ALDE.
Procedural politics was the business of the day, but Buzek did indicate the immediate policy priorities of the committee. At the first ITRE meeting of the new term on 22 July, he suggested there would be briefings on the controversial trans-Atlantic trade negotiations and scrutiny of the European Commission’s energy security strategy.
Digitalisation, e-commerce and re-industrialisation policies will also be on the agenda sometime before the end of the year, he promised, but gave no further details.
It was confirmed that Janusz Lewandowski, another Polish MEP, will take over the role of chair mid-way through the 2014-19 term. Lewandowski stood down last week from his post as European Commissioner for the budget, to take his seat as a new parliamentarian.
The new vice-chairs
Former IBM manager turned MEP: Hans-Olaf Henkel, ITRE’s third vice-chair
Once one of IBM’s top executives in Europe, and former president of the Federation of German Industries, Henkel is now interested in Eurozone reform.
Henkel’s party, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), won seven seats on a platform of - among other measures - calling for countries with weaker economies to leave the EU’s currency union. His philosophy is that, “The only EU competition is a race to take the most. We should break away from the free-spending southern Eurozone states.”
Unlike the UK Conservatives who make up the majority of the ECR group, AfD members reject outright Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in its current form.
Green campaigner: Morten Helveg Petersen, ITRE’s fourth vice-chair
Petersen worked for the Confederation of Danish Industry and was a member of Denmark's Parliament for 11 years. Prior to being elected to the European Parliament, the 47-year-old was a director at the Association of Danish Media.
On the Parliament website Petersen says his focus will mainly be on green energy policy. “I have campaigned on green and energy issues and hope to work in this area in the future also,” he said. “The issue of European energy independence is a most pressing one in the light of recent developments. The next European Parliament has to take this very seriously.”
Education, international trade, regional development, public health
Membership of other key committees is as follows:
Culture and education: Silvia Cosa (S&D, Italy)
Vice-chairs: Andrea Bocskor (EPP, Hungary), Mircea Diaconu (ALDE, Romania), Helga Trüpel (Green, Germany), Michaela Šojdrova (EPP, Czech Republic)
International trade: Bernd Lange (S&D, Germany)
Vice-chairs: Tokia Saïfi (EPP, France), Yannick Jadot (Green, France), Iuliu Winkler (EPP, Romania) Jan Zahradil (ECR, Czech Republic)
Environment, public health and food safety: Giovanni La Via (EPP, Italy)
Vice-chairs: Javor Benedek (Green, Hungary), Daciana Sârbu (S&D, Romania), Pavel Poc (S&D, Czech Republic), Gilles Pargneaux (S&D, France)
Regional development: Iskra Mihaylova (ALDE, Bulgaria)
Vice-chairs: Younous Omarjee (GUE, France), Stanislav Polcak (EPP, Czech Republic), Joachim Zeller (EPP, Germany), Andrea Cozzolino (S&D, Italy)
Civil liberties, justice and home affairs: Claude Moraes (S&D, UK)
Vice-chairs: Kinga Gall (EPP, Hungary), Lliana Iotova (S&D, Bulgaria), Jan Philipp Albrecht (Green, Germany), Barbara Kudrycka (EPP, Poland)