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The President of the European Parliament presides over the debates and activities of the European Parliamentmarker. He or she also represents the Parliament within the EU and internationally. The President's signature is required for enacting most EU laws and the EU budget.

Presidents serve two-and-a-half-year terms, normally divided between the two major political parties. There have been twenty-eight Presidents, since the Parliament was created in 1952 to 2009, thirteen of whom have served since the first Parliamentary election in 1979. Two Presidents have been women and most have come from the older member states. The current President is Jerzy Buzek.

Role in Parliament

The President chairs debates and oversees all the activities of the Parliament and its constituent bodies (ensuring the Parliament's rules of procedure are applied), in this the role is similar to that of a speaker in a national parliament. Below the President, there are 14 Vice-Presidents who chair debates when the President is not in the chamber. The President also chairs the meetings of the Bureau, which is responsible for budgetary and administration issues, and the Conference of Presidents which is a governing body composed of the presidents of each of the parliament's political groups.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the President would no longer be counted as one of the 750 MEPs (post 2009, 785 in 2008) while in office. This is to keep the number of MEPs officially under the 750 cap.

Position in the Union

He or she represents Parliament in all legal matters and external relations, particularly international relations. When the European Council meets, the President addresses it to give the Parliament's position on subjects on the Council's agenda. The President also takes part in Intergovernmental Conferences on new treaties. The President's signature is also required for the budget of the European Union and Union acts adopted under codecision procedure to be adopted. The President also chairs conciliation committees with the Council under these areas.

In most countries, the protocol of the head of state comes before all others, however in the EU the Parliament is listed as the first institution, and hence the protocol of its President comes before any other European, or national, protocol. The gifts given to numerous visiting dignitaries depends upon the President. President Josep Borrell MEP of Spain gave his counterparts a crystal cup created by an artist from Barcelona which had engraved upon it parts of the Charter of Fundamental Rights among other things.


[[Image:Map of EU Parliament Presidents.png|thumb|Map showing the number of presidents from each state;

President is elected for two-and-a-half-year terms, meaning two elections per parliamentary term, hence two Presidents may serve for during any one Parliamentary term. Since the European People's Party and Party of European Socialists began co-operating in the 1980s, they have had a tradition of splitting the two posts between them. In practice this means, in 2004-2009 for example, that the People's Party supported the Socialist candidate for President and, when his term expired in 2007, the Socialists supported the People's Party candidate for President. This results in large majorities for Presidents, although there are some exceptions: for example under the People's Party–Liberal coalition, the President for the second half of the term was a Liberal, rather than a Socialist.

Starting from the 2009-2014 session of the Parliament the outgoing President presides over the election of the new President, provided that the outgoing President is re-elected as an MEP. If the outgoing President is not re-elected as an MEP then one of the 14 Vice-Presidents takes up the role. While the outgoing President or Vice President is in the chair, they hold all the powers of the President, but the only business that may be addressed is the election of the new President.

Before the ballot nominations are handed to the chair who announces them to Parliament. If no member holds an absolute majority after three ballots, a fourth is held with only the two members holding the highest number of votes on the previous ballot. If there is still a tie following this, the eldest candidate is declared elected.

A number of notable figures have been President of the Parliament and its predecessors. The first President was Paul-Henri Spaak MEP, one of the founding fathers of the Union. Other founding fathers include Alcide de Gasperi MEP and Robert Schuman MEP. The two female Presidents were Simone Veil MEP in 1979 (first President of the elected Parliament) and Nicole Fontaine MEP in 1999, both Frenchwomen. Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister of Poland and member of Solidarity Electoral Action, was elected as the first president from the central and eastern European countries which joined in the 2000s (more precisely, he is the first person from a country that joined the EU after 1986 to hold the post).


Buzek's presidency is part of the usual People's Party - Socialist agreement to divide the presidency between them. For the 2009-2014 term Buzek gets the post for the first two and a half years, and someone from the Socialists will get it for the second half (this is expected to be current group leader Martin Schulz). The previous term has seen a great amount of co-operation between the two groups following on from the 1999-2004 term which saw an EPP-ELDR alliance.

Oldest members
Name Party State Date Age
Louise Weiss EPP Francemarker 1979 86
1982 89
? ? ? 1984 ?
? ? ? 1987 ?
Claude Autant-Lara European Right France 1989 88
? ? 1992 ?
Vassilis Ephremidis GUE/NGL Greecemarker 1994 79
Otto von Habsburg EPP Austriamarker 1997 85
Giorgio Napolitano PES Italymarker 1999 74
2002 77
Giovanni Berlinguer PES Italy 2004 80
2007 83

Meanwhile, Graham Watson, the leader of ALDE, stated he wished to challenge this system of carving up the post, and presented himself as a candidate. He made a point of running a public campaign, to contrast against the closed-doors agreement of Peoples Party-Socialists, which he claimed was the first such campaign to be run. Through this, he also stated he hoped to open up a debate on the role of the President and make the figure more dynamic, to counter balance the growing power of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. However, on 8 July 2009 Watson announced that he withdrew his candidacy thus leaving Buzek with no serious opponent.

Oldest member

Prior to 2009, the "oldest member", the eldest MEP (similar to the Father of the House), presided over the chamber during the election of the President rather than the previous president. The member had all the duties of President but the only business that could be addressed was the election of the President.

After the 2009 elections, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a far right MEP from France who has been convicted for Holocaust denial in his home country was expected to be the oldest member, aged 81. In response the Parliament's rules were changed so that the outgoing President (if re-elected as an MEP) or one of the outgoing Vice-Presidents would chair the first session of Parliament until a new President was elected. Green co-head Daniel Cohn-Bendit wanted to change the rules so that the youngest member would chair the session, to reflect the future. After the election, Ciriaco de Mita was in fact the oldest member, rather than Le Pen.

List of Presidents of the European Parliament

Robert Schuman (1958-1960), first President of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Simone Veil (1979-1982), first President of the elected Parliament and the first female President.
Dates in office Name Party Group Country
Presidents of the Common Assembly, 1952–1958
1952–1954 Paul-Henri Spaak BSP-PSB SOC
1954 Alcide De Gasperi

1954–1956 Giuseppe Pella DC CD
1956–1958 (1st) Hans Furler CDU CD
Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly, 1958–1962
1958–1960 Robert Schuman MRP CD
1960–1962 (2nd) Hans Furler CDU CD
Presidents of the appointed Parliament, 1962–1979
1962–1964 Gaetano Martino PLI LIB
1964–1965 Jean Duvieusart RW CD
1965–1966 Victor Leemans CVP CD
1966–1969 Alain Poher MRP CD
1969–1971 Mario Scelba DC CD
1971–1973 Walter Behrendt SPD SOC
1973–1975 Cornelis Berkhouwer VVD LIB
1975–1977 Georges Spénale SPD SOC
1977–1979 Emilio Colombo DC CD
Term Presidents of the elected Parliament, 1979 onwards
1 1979–1982 Simone Veil UDF ELDR
1982–1984 Piet Dankert PvdA PES
2 1984–1987 Pierre Pflimlin UDF/RPR EPP
1987–1989 Charles Henry Plumb CP ED
3 1989–1992 Enrique Barón Crespo PSOE PES
1992–1994 Egon Klepsch CDU EPP
4 1994–1997 Klaus Hänsch SPD PES
1997–1999 José María Gil-Robles PP EPP
5 1999–2002 Nicole Fontaine UMP EPP–ED
2002–2004 Pat Cox Ind ELDR
6 2004–2007 Josep Borrell PSOE PES
2007–2009 Hans-Gert Pöttering CDU EPP–ED
7 2009–2012 Jerzy Buzek PO EPP

The two major factions of the European Parliament, the EPP and the S&D, have reached a formal agreement to share the Presidency under the 2009-2014 term. Under the agreement, Jerzy Buzek will be President in the first half of the term and Martin Schulz (SPD, Germanymarker) in the second half (2012-2014) of the term.

See also


  1. Next EP president to be a Pole?
  2. Watson, Graham (7 January 2009) Make me president: The next president of the European parliament should be a Lib Dem, and prove that not all Brits are anti-Europe, The Guardian
  3. died 19 August 1954

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