20 MEPs to watch in 2020
The European Parliament is younger, more diverse — and more divided — than ever.
It has also increasingly been flexing its muscles in EU decision-making, and many MEPs are expected to play a major role on issues such as climate change, artificial intelligence and industrial policy.
With the Parliament in Strasbourg this week to start its legislative work, here are 20 lawmakers (many of them fresh faces in the assembly) who could make a big name for themselves.
Pascal Canfin | Eric Vidal/European Union
Who? An ex-minister and former longtime member of the Greens, Canfin is an ally of French President Emmanuel Macron and was second on his La République En Marche list in Mays EU election. Canfin was an adviser for American think tank World Resources Institute during the COP21 climate talks before heading the French branch of the World Wildlife Fund.
Why do they matter? One of the new European Commissions priorities is the Green Deal and Canfin, a climate expert and one of the (few) influential Frenchmen in the Parliament, has already positioned himself as a leading voice pushing for an ambitious package. As chair of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee, he will steer the work on many important laws, especially a new climate law that is due to be presented by March. He will be a key figure in negotiations on the Green Deal on behalf of his Renew Europe group.
What challenges will they face? He will have to seek cohesion between those who want more ambition on climate, those who are climate skeptics, those who defend businesses and many more besides.
Petra De Sutter
Petra De Sutter | Genevieve Engel/European Union
Who? A former gynecologist and Belgian senator, De Sutter is the first Green MEP to chair the powerful Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee, which had been in the hands of the conservative European Conservatives and Reformists group. De Sutter was also the first transgender lawmaker in Belgium.
Why? De Sutter will steer the work of one of the most eclectic committees, which will deal with big files such as public procurement, dual quality food and multiple digital issues.
What? She will be instrumental in coordinating the work between two of the Commissions big guns — Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner, and Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president in charge of the digital portfolio.
Irene Tinagli | Marc Dossmann/European Union
Who? An Italian socialist who joined the Parliament this term, after five years as a lawmaker in Rome. She became chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee when fellow Democratic Party member Roberto Gualtieri, who had been elected to the role, headed back to Italy as finance minister.
Why? Tinagli is not only heading the committee that will handle high-profile bills on sustainable finance, banking and markets, shes also pushing for the Parliament to get a big upgrade in its authority: power to vote on tax legislation.
What? National governments wont be quick to hand over their exclusive control of tax bills. But some capitals are facing public pressure to act on climate change, including though fiscal tools. Tinagli could leverage this to make the Parliament a force on those topics.
Manon Aubry | Genevieve Engel/European Union
Who? The co-leader of the far-left GUE party could be a key figure in the fight against tax evasion and inequality. A former spokesperson for a French NGO dealing with tax evasion, she campaigned for “No” in the 2005 referendum on the EUs constitution. Aubry was head of the list for Jean-Luc Mélenchons France Unbowed movement in the EU election.
Why? She wont play a role in crucial committees but already made a name for herself during the commissioners confirmation hearings, denouncing the Parliaments lack of control and transparency during the process. She was sanctioned by the Parliament for calling on the Extinction Rebellion protest movement to occupy the assembly.
What? She aims to raise awareness in the EU on lack of transparency and social injustice.
Esther de Lange
Esther de Lange | Marc Dossmann/European Union
Who? A Dutch member of the EPP and vice chair of the EPP group, she is one of the influential women inside the largest group in the assembly.
Why? She was involved in drafting the EPP position on the Green Deal and is a member of the ENVI committee. She provided the “man on the moon moment” line used by Ursula von der Leyen when the Commission president presented her Green Deal in Parliament.
What? Given the EPPs often ambiguous position on climate, de Lange will be instrumental in making the party more modern and ambitious on the issue.
Dacian Cioloș | Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images
Who? Once nicknamed the “Romanian Macron,” the former prime minister of Romania and ex-commissioner leads Macrons baby in the Parliament: the centrist Renew Europe group.
Why? He leads a group that will be instrumental in reaching broad coalitions in the Parliament, including on big EU files such as climate and digital issues. He will have to maintain cohesion in a group where many parties have different notions of liberal policies and have little to do with each other.
What? His strength is also his challenge. He heads a group that is overwhelmingly identified with Macron. And believe it or not, not everybody loves Macron in the chamber.
Johan Van Overtveldt
Johan Van Overtveld | Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images
Who? A member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, the former Belgian finance minister is now chair of the Budgets Committee.
Why? He will be tasked with trying to keep political groups within the European Parliament united on key questions regarding the 2021-2027 EU budget.
What? The Parliament may have a formal position on the next long-term budget, but under the surface MEPs are deeply divided along geographic lines. In a process that is heavily Council-driven, keeping Parliament united enough to influence the budget talks will be a difficult task.
Ville Niinistö | Philippe Buissin/European Union
Who? The Finnish Green, Finlands environment minister from 2011 to 2014 and nephew of Finlands president, Sauli Niinistö, is coordinator for his party in the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee.
Why? Niinistö will oversee the groups work on some important files including the industrial strategy and circular economy action plan, both due in March.
What? His group will seek to paint Commission initiatives in darker shades of green. But the Greens status as outsiders — they didnt vote in favor of the von der Leyen Commission but said theyll offer support on a case-by-case basis — may be a double-edged sword, as the Commission may seek a majority with other, less environmentally minded groups.
Esteban González Pons
Esteban González Pons | Jan van de Vel/European Union
Who? A former senator from Spains conservative Popular Party (PP), González Pons neither sits in any major committees nor is expected to oversee any of the most important EU files. But he is eloquent, and a rare example of an MEP who has attracted a lot of public attention, including on YouTube, for his strong speeches about the EU in plenary.
Why? As vice chair of the EPP group, he is seen as an influential politician who could well replace Manfred Weber, the current leader of the group, if Weber goes back to national politics.
What? This prominent Spanish MEP could come in handy for Ursula von der Leyen if she needs someone to make a strong case in plenary.
Daniel Caspary | Fred Marvaux/European Union
Who? The head of Germanys conservative delegation in the European Parliament and a member of Angela Merkels Christian Democratic Union.
Why? Berlin worries that, with Ursula von der Leyen as president of the Commission, she will be under pressure to make sure the EU isnt seen as too German. That puts more pressure on Caspary, who has to make sure German interests are promoted in Brussels.
What? A lot will depend on Berlin itself. Germany finds itself with a fragile government and therefore chancellor. That political instability could influence German positions at the EU level.
Daniel Freund | Marc Dossmann/European Union
Who? Now a Green MEP from Germany, Freund was the head of advocacy for EU integrity at the NGO Transparency International, and transparency is his area of expertise.
Why? He is one of the main rapporteurs on the Conference on the Future of Europe and has pushed for the idea of an independent ethics body. Von der Leyen tasked Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vĕra Jourová with looking into the idea in order to make EU ethics enforcement consistent across the main institutions.
What? He will be on the frontline of potential treaty change through the Conference on the Future of Europe. Hes taken over the work from Sven Giegold on lobby transparency in the German Green delegation.
Samira Rafeala | Mathieu Cugnot/European Union
Who? A Dutch politician from Renew Europe, and the first Dutch MEP with Afro-Caribbean roots.
Why? Rafaela symbolizes a new trade direction within the European Parliament. Putting human and environmental rights in trade agreements is not just an issue of the left anymore but gets backing from liberals. “You cant solve it all but you can do good things with trade,” she says.
What? Liberals might face pressure from the ECR for letting the trade part of trade talks get out of sight. The ECR say free-trade agreements should be focused more on trade rather than the “extra” elements such as human rights or climate issues.
Katalin Cseh | Mathieu Cugnot/European Union
Who? The 31-year-old Hungarian gynecologist is vice chair of the Renew Europe group.
Why? Cseh is among the new, young cohort of elected officials trying to change political culture both in her native Hungary and within the European Parliament. She uses her position as an MEP to denounce Viktor Orbán and reach out to young people across Central Europe.
What? Like other young MEPs, Csehs idealism is being put to the test in an institution that is built on political deals and give-and-take between groups. It will be a struggle to keep promises to Hungarian liberal voters while navigating the politics of the diverse Renew Europe group.
Alex Agius Saliba
Alex Agius Saliba | Genevieve Engel/European Union
Who? A newly elected Maltese MEP from the Socialists and Democrats group. He sits in the Parliaments Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee.
Why? Agius Saliba has been put in charge of his committees report on the Digital Services Act — a future piece of legislation expected from the new European Commission that will set rules on how platforms such as Google and Facebook police illegal content online.
What? Saliba will work on what is already one of the mandates most high-profile technology files while navigating a new environment. The Maltese MEP will have to deal with an intense amount of lobbying from the private sector, which has already started. His report will set the tone on an issue that is already described as more controversial than the copyright reform.
Martin Hojsík | Thierry Roge/European Union
Who? Newly elected Slovak MEP in the Renew Europe group, who sits on the environment committee.
Why? Hojsík has established himself early on as a major opponent of the over-use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, helping to halt Commission legislation in a bid to achieve stronger rules for bee-harming pesticides and objecting to the automatic extension of some pesticides EU licenses.
What? The Slovak MEP has a fight on his hands to secure ambitious targets for reducing the risk and use of pesticides in the Green Deal. No numbers were included in the outline of the deal published last year. He also demanded tougher rules on the substitution of dangerous chemicals, bRead More – Source