EU civil war? Chiefs plotting power plays that could spark huge Brussels row over key jobs

European Parliament is ‘not a punch bag’ says David Sassoli

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EU Parliament President David Sassoli is on manoeuvres to extend his stay in the top job for another term. While German MEP Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People’s Party bloc, is vying to become the leader of his pan-EU party. Sources say both men are covertly jostling to bolster their standings in the EU circles.

MEPs have claimed Mr Sassoli, an Italian social democrat, has been quietly campaigning for a second term as the EU Parliament’s President.

He unexpectedly took up the job in 2019 as part of an agreement to dole out top EU jobs, which was struck by the bloc’s leaders.

Under the pact, Mr Sassoli was expected to step down when his term ends in January, to be replaced by a conservative MEP.

One MEP told Politico: “Sassoli’s candidacy is an open secret.

“I have seen him more in my office than ever before.”

Meanwhile, Mr Weber is plotting his own presidential bid of a different nature.

Many insiders had expected the German to succeed Mr Sassoli in the EU Parliament.

But now officials believe Mr Weber is hoping to takeover the presidency of the EPP – the centre-right alliance of political parties from across the EU.

He also hopes that he’ll be re-elected chairman of its bloc in the EU Parliament.

While such a move would be less prestigious than taking the reins of an EU institution, it would give Mr Weber more power.

He would be seen as a pivotal figure marshalling conservative MEPs and national leaders, including heads of state and government, at an EU-level.

If his bid is successful, he would be replacing former European Council chief Donald Tusk as the EPP’s president.

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The power play could favour Mr Sassoli’s bid to keep hold of the EU Parliament’s presidency for another term.

The Italian is said to be frustrated that his first term has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, which saw the introduction of sweeping measures that largely shut down the institution’s operations.

One official said: “He had to run a hospital.”

But the EPP is intent that it will take up the presidency in January, as was agreed as part of the top jobs deals of 2019.

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An EPP official said: “The EPP is determined to claim the EU Parliament presidency next January, since this was agreed with the S&D and Renew in 2019.”

The socialists group have argued that the agreement lacks legitimacy because it would leave the second-largest political force in Europe without a top job.

The EPP has European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in place, while Renew has Charles Michel in control of the European Council.

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