Newly elected European Parliament president Roberta Metsola faced repeated questions about her position on abortion and women’s sexual rights during her first news conference as head of Europe's law-making body.
Fielding reporters’ questions just a few minutes after her landslide electoral victory in Strasbourg, Metsola insisted she would respect the EP’s position on all matters, including the thorny issue of abortion.
“My position is that of the European Parliament. This parliament has always been clear and unambiguous on the issue of sexual and reproductive health rights,” she said.
“I will not interpret positions of this House. They will be my positions and I will promote them.”
Metsola said she had already done this in the past.
“I will do what I did as vice president when I presented to the Polish senate a [EP] resolution passed on abortion law in Poland. I promoted it and presented it as the position of [European] parliament," she said.
Metsola’s conservative record on abortion has been described by her European political rivals as out of step with the Continent’s political direction in past.
During her time as an MEP, she has opposed reports and resolutions calling for women to have access to safe abortion services.
During Tuesday’s press conference, she said she had taken the decision not to vote on such matters while serving as EP president.
An honour for Malta
Asked by a reporter from Malta's state news station TVM, how she felt being the first Maltese president of the EP, Metsola said it was an honour for the country.
Her election on Tuesday was thanks to Malta’s decision to be part of the European discussion table nearly two decades ago.
“I thank my colleagues, particularly David Casa,” she said.
Another question from a Maltese reporter asked Metsola how she planned to work with the Maltese government after having been critical of the labour administration in the past.
She said she had a very good meeting with Robert Abela and had agreed to work on issues of common concern, “as pro-Europeans”.
“I look forwards, not backwards. Today's result is a testament that we can look forward,” she said.
Another issue that cropped up a couple of times during the press conference was how she would tackle the issue of migration.
Facing questions from different Italian journalists, Metsola conceded that migration was an important point that has dominated the EP’s debates in recent years.
She said the immediate future of this policy concern rests would be seen when ongoing debates are concluded.
“I am president of the parliament and will await the results of the committees discussing these matters,” she said.
However, MEPs would then have to face their voters.
“In 2024, when we face the electorate, we need to be able to answer these questions which are of concern for all member states,” she said.