Italian former journalist David-Maria Sassoli has been selected as the new president of the European Parliament. Mr. Sassoli, 63, received the support of 345 out of a total of 667 MEPs in the second round of voting in Strasbourg.
The centre-left politician beat three other candidates and will assume the role of assembly speaker immediately. The vote comes a day after EU leaders agreed nominations for the bloc's top jobs, with a woman for the first time proposed as European Commission chief.
In a speech following Wednesday's result, Mr. Sassoli spoke of an imperfect union in need of reform, calling for the EU to return to the spirit of its founding fathers, who swapped warfare and nationalism for peace and equality.
We need to strengthen our capacity to play a leading role in democracy, he said, focusing particularly on the need for reform to the EU's system for asylum seekers. You can't continue to kick this down the road. We don't want citizens asking 'where's Europe' every time an emergency happens.
He then described Brexit as painful, adding: The European Parliament will guarantee the independence of European citizens - only they are able to determine their history.
Mr. Sassoli replaces another Italian, ex-army officer Antonio Tajani.
On Wednesday, members of the European Parliament elected in May voted in a secret ballot for their choice of one of four candidates.
Ahead of the vote, contenders for the position were each given a few minutes to pitch their ideas to fellow MEPs in the Strasbourg assembly:
- David-Maria Sassoli: I am applying because I believe that Europe will be stronger only with a European Parliament capable of playing a more important role.
- Ska Keller, European Green Party (German): The European Union is more important than ever. You have answered the hateful rhetoric of the European right... with a mandate to strengthen the European Union.
- Jan Zahradil, Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (Czech): Among the four candidates I am the only one who comes from Central/Eastern Europe, from outside the eurozone, from a small/medium-sized country.
- Sira Rego, European United Left-Nordic Green Left (Spanish): Time is running out for the future of our planet. Neoliberal solutions and carbon trading are not going to solve this climate crisis.