Roberta Metsola elected as EU Parliament president after death of David Sassoli

Maltese MEP becomes the youngest to take on the role

Roberta Metsola becomes the first Maltese politician to hold such a senior role in European politics. Reuters

Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola has been elected as the new president of the European Parliament after the death of her predecessor David Sassoli last week.

Ms Metsola, who received 458 of the 616 votes cast on Tuesday, becomes the youngest president of the parliament at 43 and only the third woman to take on the role.

"In the next years, people across Europe will look to our institution for leadership and direction, while others will continue to test the limits of our democratic values and European principles," Ms Metsola said in her acceptance speech.

"We must fight back against the anti-EU narrative that takes hold so easily and so quickly."

Described as a centre-right politician, she was a candidate for the parliament’s largest bloc, the European People's Party. Ms Metsola had been acting president since the death Sassoli, a centre-left MEP, at 63 and will now serve a two-and-a-half year term.

She became vice-president of the European Parliament in 2020 and was the favourite to replace Sassoli due to a power-sharing deal among the legislature's main factions. But Ms Metsola has also attracted criticism for her anti-abortion stance.

She said she would continue the strategy of her predecessor to build bridges. “David fought hard to bring people around the same table. It is that commitment to holding the constructive forces in Europe together that I will build on.”

Ms Metsola referenced important players in the history of European politics such as German Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl and French Socialist Francois Mitterrand.

“My appeal is to rediscover the purpose of Kohl and Mitterrand and leave behind the entrenchment of the past as we look to the future,” she said.

The new president becomes the first Maltese politician to hold such a senior role in European politics.

“I am a woman from a small island in the middle of Europe’s southern sea. I know what it means to be the underdog. I know what it means to be pigeonholed,” she said. “I know what this means for every girl watching today. I know what it means for everyone who dares and whoever dared to dream.”

While the role is one of the top jobs in the EU's hierarchy, the parliament is sometimes accused by its critics of lacking real power.

Ms Metsola said it must be strengthened and “cannot be afraid of reform.”

“The next part of the mandate will see a window of opportunity to make our parliament more modern, more effective and more efficient," she said. "We must seize the opportunity.”

Updated: January 18, 2022, 11:17 AM