New President European Parliament is “categorically against abortion”

18-01-2022

European Union

Dick Tromp and Evert van Vlastuin, CNE.news

Sweet birthday present: Roberta Metsola got elected as new President of the European Parliament. Photo AFP, Patrick Hertzog

A female president that receives opposition from the feminists. That is the present situation with the new president of the European Parliament.

Roberta Metsola is a successful young woman from the tiny member state Malta. Until now, most of the EP chairpersons came for the larger member states. And were much older. Metsola’s forerunner, David Sassoli, who died instantly a few days ago, came from Italy and was 65 years old. Metsola became 43 on the day she was elected. She is the youngest EP president ever.

She would also be only the third woman after Simone Veil (1979) and Nicole Fontaine (1999).

Metsola did not need the expected three voting rounds to get elected. Directly in the first round, she overtook the Green and Left candidates. The Conservative ECR candidate dropped out Tuesday morning. With 458 of the 690 votes, she received 74 per cent support, much more than the necessary 51 per cent.

Shortly after the elections in 2019, it was negotiated between the Socialist and Christian Democratic parties that they would change the presidency halfway through the period. So even before Sassoli’s death, the Maltese was expected to step into the president’s seat soon. From 2020, she was the Vice President of the body.

First Maltese in top job

Since yesterday, she has been the first Maltese to have a top job in the EU. She is one of the three EU Presidents, together with the President of the European Commission (Von der Leyen) and the President of the European Council (Michel).

In 2013, she became an MP for the Christian Democratic European People’s Party (EPP). Before that, she worked from the early days of the Maltese membership in 2004 as an official in Brussels. And even before that, she studied at the College of Europe in Bruges (Belgium). Therefore, she knows both the EU and the EP as no one else.

At home, she is a mother of four. Her Finnish husband, Ukko, gave up his political career to support hers. Like most of the other Maltese, she is a Roman Catholic.

Mixed agenda

As an MP, she has a mixed agenda. On the one side, she is seen as a “progressive conservative”. She fights for better care for migrants from Africa, which is understandable for a politician from Malta. She also fights against corruption and for gay rights.

On the other hand, she is opposed to abortion. In 2015, she even issued a statement about the so-called Tarabella report with two other Maltese EPP MEPs saying they remained “categorically against abortion”.

Several times as an MEP, she voted against easier access to abortion. In September 2021, she abstained from a vote against gender-based violence. But because abortion was part of this text, she did not vote among almost all EPP MEPs.

In June, she voted against the Matic report that presented abortion as part of human rights. There was only one Maltese MEP who voted in favour of this report.

National matter

Metsola has made a point that abortion is a national matter. When Malta prepared its access towards the EU, the island negotiated a protocol that ‘Brussels’ never would interfere in the country’s abortion policy. Roberta Metsola has asked attention for this guarantee repeatedly.

In this regard, the politician has remained loyal to the majority opinion in her country, Malta, which today has some of the most protective laws for mothers and children in Europe, as abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. Malta is even stricter than Poland, the most criticised country for its abortion ban.

That has earned her many enemies. Several parliamentary groups do not like Metsola’s support for the pro-life policy.

The pro-choice movement is not debating abortion as a national competence. Still, it stresses abortion as part of good health care. Several resolutions in the EP have included access to abortion in the broader package of “health care for women”.

Because of her position, many MEPs doubted whether she would be the right person to become EP President. The French Manon Aubry recently spoke about a “disastrous signal” to women. And it is known that even French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his reservations about Metsola.

Support the EP majority

On Tuesday, during her first press conference as EP President, she received some questions about her abortion standpoint. She stressed that she would support the position of the parliament rather than her personal one. “I will do what I did as Vice President when I presented to the Polish senate a resolution passed on abortion law in Poland. I promoted it and presented it as the position of parliament.”

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