The European Parliament Tuesday chose Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola to become its new speaker following the sudden death last week of Italian David Sassoli.
Metsola is said to be of centre-right allegiance and is known for her anti-abortion stance. She represents the European People's Party and was voted by a large majority (458 votes) to become the third woman to lead the House after a deal between leading political groupings.
Metsola was greeted at her new job while MEPs applauded and sang Happy Birthday. She was turning 43 the day she was appointed for her new position, making her the youngest Speaker the body ever had.
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, Metsola said in her acceptance speech.
We must fight back against the anti-EU narrative that takes hold so easily and so quickly.
The mother-of-four styles herself as a pro-LGBTQ progressive and champion of women's rights. Abortion is illegal in largely Catholic Malta - the EU's smallest nation - and Metsola in June voted against a report urging all member states to offer safe access to pregnancy terminations. Reproductive rights have become a central issue on the continent since Poland introduced a near-total ban on terminations last year.
Metsola will head the parliament until mid-2024. The presidency of the European Parliament is one of the top jobs in the EU's hierarchy - but the chamber is often accused by its critics of lacking real power.
EU executive chief Ursula von der Leyen offered her warmest congrats to Metsola. As the third woman to head this noble house, your hard work and determination are an inspiration to us all, the European Commission chief wrote on Twitter.
Metsola insisted the fight against climate change would remain a priority for the European Parliament and urged lawmakers to embrace reforms to make the legislature more relevant.
Metsola had served as the Parliament's vice-president since 2020 and was elected comfortably in Tuesday's leadership vote, winning the support of 458 of the group's 705 MEPs.
Although the role of President is largely ceremonial, Metsola takes charge of the bloc at a critical time. She will seek to contain fractures among the group's MEPs, while it also deals with the Russian military buildup near to the Ukrainian border, a complicated trade relationship with China and emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic.