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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » July 29, 2009
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Poles Take Top Jobs in Brussels
July 29, 2009 By W.Ż.    
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Former Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek has been elected president of the European Parliament while several Euro deputies from Poland have taken senior parliamentary posts.

Buzek, a member of Poland's ruling Civic Platform (PO) party, was officially elected July 14 in Strasbourg, during the opening plenary session of the new European Parliament. He will stay in office for the first half of the European Parliament term, until the end of 2011. His tenure will coincide with the Polish presidency of the EU, in the second half of 2011.

Buzek, who was Poland's prime minister 1997-2001, was backed by 555 of the 713 Euro-deputies who took part in the vote. He had the support of the five largest political groups in the parliament, including his Christian-Democrat European People's Party (EPP), the Socialists, Liberals, Greens and European Conservatives and Reformists. The five groups account for almost 90 percent of the 736 deputies in the European Parliament.

"This is a tremendous challenge and an honor for me," Buzek said after the vote. "I will do my best not to betray your trust. This is how Europe is changing. I consider this choice an homage to millions of citizens in our countries [in Central and Eastern Europe] who never gave in to the [communist] regime." Buzek added that his appointment was a landmark because for the first time the president of the European Parliament was a Euro deputy from one of the 12 countries that joined the EU after May 1, 2004. Buzek said he would deliver a detailed policy speech during the September parliamentary session in Strasbourg and named human rights as a top priority of his presidency.

Buzek also said one of the main tasks facing European politicians was to ensure the Treaty of Lisbon finally enters into force, which means encouraging Irish citizens to vote for the treaty in a second referendum planned for this autumn, and persuading member states which have not ratified the treaty yet to do so as soon as possible. These countries include the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland, where the treaty is still awaiting signature by President Lech Kaczyński. "The treaty provides us with an excellent tool to carry out our plans and aspirations," Buzek said in his speech following his election.

Apart from Buzek, other Polish Euro-deputies will hold senior posts in the parliament. Danuta Hübner, formerly the EU commissioner for regional policy, was chosen July 20 the chair of the parliamentary committee on regional development. Hübner gave up her post as commissioner after winning a seat in the European Parliament, running on the Civic Platform ticket.

Michał Kamiński, a member of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, was tipped as one of 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament. But he lost out after Edward McMillan-Scott, a Euro deputy from the British Conservative Party, put himself forward as a candidate, despite an earlier agreement within the European Conservatives and Reformists group of which both he and Kamiński are members. By way of compensation, British Euro deputies chose Kamiński to head the European Conservatives and Reformists. With 54 Euro deputies, the Conservatives and Reformists are the fifth largest group in the European Parliament. The group includes 15 Polish Euro deputies from PiS.

As the European Conservatives and Reformists' leader, Kamiński will sit on the Conference of Presidents, formed by the president of the parliament and the heads of political groups. The Conference prepares session agendas and decides when and what legislation and resolutions are passed. Group leaders also speak first during parliamentary debates, on behalf of their groups.

Janusz Wojciechowski, a PiS Euro deputy, was elected deputy chair of the committee on agriculture. Lidia Geringer d'Oedenberg, a member of Poland's opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), who was re-elected to the European Parliament in the June elections, was chosen as one of five Quaestors, who look after the financial and administrative interests of deputies. Her party colleague Bogusław Liberadzki, in turn, is a new vice chair of the committee on budgetary control. Under a preliminary agreement within the Socialist group, Liberadzki will become one of 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament in the second half of the new term.

Two PO Euro deputies, Paweł Zalewski and Bogusław Sonik, were July 16 elected deputy chairs of the parliamentary committees on international trade and environment. They were joined July 20 by Rafał Trzaskowski, who became a deputy chair of the committee on constitutional affairs. Deputy chair positions on two subcommittees, on human rights and security and defense, go to Andrzej Grzyb from the Polish People's Party (PSL) and Krzysztof Lisek from PO.

All posts in the European Parliament, including members of the Bureau-14 vice-presidents, five Quaestors and chairs and deputy chairs of 20 standing committees-have been allocated according to the d'Hondt method, which gives priority to the largest political groups and then the largest national groups within them. While PO did well under this system, the party's list of candidates for major posts had to be downsized after Buzek became European Parliament President, following an agreement within the European People's Party designed to compensate other national groups. Poland's Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, tipped as the new chair of the committee on international affairs, had to give way to a candidate from Italy. Earlier, Italy's Mario Mauro, Buzek's rival for the post of president, quit the race, clearing the way for the Pole to take the top job.
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