Roberta Metsola was elected president of the European Parliament on Tuesday, winning an absolute majority in a landslide vote.
The Maltese MEP won 458 votes in the first round of voting, out of 616 valid votes cast. She needed 309 to win.
Metsola becomes the first Maltese politician to preside over an EU institution and the third woman to lead the European Parliament. She will serve in that role until 2024.
- Roberta Metsola's first speech as president
- Metsola profile: from student campaigner to EP president
- Congratulations pour in for president Metsola
- Abortion dominates Metsola's first news conference
- In full: Metsola's first speech as EP president
- Metsola's tribute to murdered women
See how events unfolded in our live blog.
As it happened
Live blog ends
1.39pm It's been a historic morning for Maltese politics, which now boasts a representative in one of the EU's highest offices.
The main event is now over, with Roberta Metsola the European Parliament president.
This live blog will end here. Thank you for having joined us.
1.12pm Among those anxiously watching Tuesday morning's proceedings were Metsola's parents, Rita and Geoffrey Tedesco Triccas, as well as her husband Ukko.
We caught up with them as they celebrated their daughter making history.
More from the press conference
12.42pm A last round of questions.
On far-right: I am president of all members of this parliament. Questions about a cordone sanitaire [to lock far-right out of positions] should be addressed to political groups.
On voting in the EP: I won't continue to vote. I took that decision a while ago.
On who backed her: It was a secret vote and I'm not presumptuous enough to assume who did or did not back me.
12.35pm More lines from Roberta Metsola's first press conference as president.
On rule of law: This is a parliament of the rule of law. There must be standards and obligations that all member states should abide by.
On 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.
We recently voted against violence on the basis of gender. And I commit and confirm that this is the way I will work.
I will not 'interpret' positions of this House. They will be my positions and I will promote them.
On financial recovery: I agree with Sassoli's assessment of the 'cruel inflexibility' of current rules. But we also need rules to ensure transparency.
On Cyprus: It is the last divided country in our union. We had spoken very strongly when Turkey began sabre-rattling, and we will continue to do so.
Metsola: 'It's an honour for our country'
12.25pm Metsola is speaking in her first press conference as EP president. You can watch it in the video below.
On Sassoli: I will be faithful to Sassoli’s memory by being true to his principles.
On Ukraine and turmoil in eastern Europe: The EP has always been consistent about dictators. The situation in Belarus is concerning. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to send a strong message.
On migration and Dublin rules: This is an important point. As president, I will wait for the results of the committee discussing these matters.
On being a Maltese president: It's an honour for our country. This was thanks to Malta’s decision to be part of the discussion table. I thank my colleagues, particularly David Casa.
On critics within domestic politics: I had a very good meeting with Robert Abela and we agreed to work on issues of common concern, as pro-Europeans. I look forwards, not backwards. Today's result is testament that we can look forward.
A social media transition
12.19pm She’s now EP president, and that means taking control of the @EP_President Twitter handle.
Andrew Caruana Galizia: 'integrity matters'
12.12pm One of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sons, Andrew, contrasts Metsola to former prime minister Joseph Muscat, in a tweet that recalls an iconic moment between the two that went viral.
"Joseph Muscat’s actions led to my mother’s assassination and made his dreams of a top EU post delusional," he writes.
"Roberta Metsola’s actions supported the campaign for justice for my mother and today made her the youngest President in the European Parliament’s history. Integrity matters."
Muscat, you may recall, was gunning to replace Donald Tusk as EU Council president. That bid failed to pick up any momentum.
Press conference at 12pm
11.46am It's the start of what will most likely be a whirlwind two-and-a-half years for Metsola. The congratulatory speeches are done, and now she's due to hold a press conference at 12pm.
Getting there on time will be tricky - several MEP colleagues are determined to get a selfie with the new EP president.
Roberta Metsola's maiden speech
11.39am Metsola switched from Maltese to Italian, English to French in a maiden speech that laid out her priorities and set the tone for her presidency.
She warned that some would "continue to test the limits of our values and European principles,” and warned that it would be up to MEPs to "fight back against “anti-EU sentiment which takes hold so quickly and so easily”.
"To those who seek to destroy europe, know that this house stands against you," she said.
Metsola on climate change: "If you believe science, and this House does, the question is no longer if, but when. Tomorrow is too late. And we must continue to show that you cannot decouple the environment and the economy."
On Cyprus: “We can never be truly whole while Cyprus remains split".
On Ukraine: "The world around us is less friendly than it was a generation ago. The unacceptable attacks on Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the dangerous situation in Belarus are prime examples of this.... for autocrats and despots the EU is a threat, simply by existing."
On EU values: "To those who attempt to undermine democracy, the rule of law, free speech and fundamental rights, who see women as a target, and who deny the rights to our LGBTIQ citizens - know that this House will never accept it."
On justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak: "Your fight for truth and justice is our fight".
On women in politics: “It will not be another two decades until the next woman is standing here. "
On human rights and equality: "I know I stand on the shoulders of giants. The shoulders of the millions of nameless women who endured so much and who fought for us to have the opportunities they were never afforded.
"The shoulders of Ashling, Paulina and all the other women whose lives have already been stolen this year. The shoulders of Europe’s displaced and the disappeared; on all those who fought and suffered under totalitarianism and sacrificed everything for Europe."
EP groupings have their say
11.35am Metsola gave a powerful speech -we’ll have a few lines from it up shortly – and she is now followed by the presidents of each of the EP’s political groupings, who are now taking it in turns to give a brief speech.
The EPP, S&D and Renew Europe all congratulate Metsola - all three backed her nomination. The Greens want Metsola to push for greater respect of minority rights within the parliament, saying it is not right that some groups are “almost second class”.
Malta's president speaks
11.32am President George Vella calls it a “remarkable achievement” for Metsola, but for Malta too. “If united, our size & geography pose no obstacle to vision & commitment,” the president writes.
More congratulatory notes
11.24am EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen: "As the 3rd woman to head this noble house, your hard work & determination are an inspiration to us all."
Prime Minister Robert Abela: "I look forward to working together on mutual priorities."
Both the Nationalist and Labour parties have sent out statements congratulating Metsola on her win. So too has rule of law NGO Repubblika.
Roberta Metsola: from student activist to European president
11.19am Roberta Metsola has become a household name in recent years. But her political activism stretches back decades.
11.15am Former EU Council president Donald Tusk is among the first to congratulate Metsola, describing her as “a woman of values & a devoted European.” “I believe in Europe & I believe in you, Roberta,” the Polish politician writes.
EU Commission vice-president Věra Jourová is also quick off the mark. “We have had a great cooperation together which I believe will continue,” she writes on Twitter.
A multilingual address
11.10am Metsola's first address, and it's a multilingual one.
Her first-ever word as EP president is a Maltese one - "Grazzi" - and her first words of thanks are in Maltese, too.
She then switches to Italian to pay tribute to her predecessor David Sassoli, who died last week. "He was a fighter," she says.
And then it's onto English. Metsola pledges to honour EU values, saying she wants people "to recapture a sense of belief and enthusiasm for our project".
"We must fight back against the anti-EU narrative that spreads so easily and so quickly," she tells her colleagues.
MEPs sing happy birthday
11.08am Not only is it the biggest day of Metsola's career, it's also her 43rd birthday. Some MEPs greet news of her victory with an impromptu rendition of 'happy birthday'.
The Maltese MEP shakes hands and exchanges greetings as she makes her way to the rostrum, to address the plenary as EP president for the first time.
Metsola elected president
11.04am It's a landslide.
Roberta Metsola is elected president of the European Parliament.
Metsola won 458 votes. She needed 309 to win.
At 43, she is the youngest-ever parliament president and its third woman president. She is also the first Maltese person to serve as president of an EU institution.
Applause in the plenary.
Any minute now
10.58am MEPs are trickling back into the plenary hall. We're expecting the voting results of round one to be announced any minute.
Will Metsola have secured an absolute majority of votes, or will we be heading to a second round of voting?
Metsola on Twitter
10.50am On the Twittersphere, news of Metsola’s impending election is sparking some outrage among some Europeans who oppose her stance on reproductive rights.
“Simone Veil would find her anti-women, anti-abortion beliefs abhorrent,” writes one journalist. Veil was the EP’s first female president.
But others are much more positive about the Maltese MEP.
MEP Damian Boeselager notes that she has committed to setting her personal views aside, adding "we will see how strong she will stand up for Parliament against the bullies in council and commission."
More than 15 years of EU politics
10.31am Metsola is just 43 years old (and a happy birthday to her) but she has more EU experience than colleagues that are decades older than her.
After graduating as a lawyer, she served as an assistant to Belgian MEP (and former prime minister) Jean-Luc Dehaene and first ran for an MEP seat in 2004.
She failed to get elected and went on to work as an attache at Malta’s EU representation in Brussels until 2012, having also missed out on a seat in the 2009 elections.
When Simon Busuttil left Brussels to serve as PN deputy leader in 2013, Metsola won a casual election to fill his MEP seat.
10.20am Joined us late and missed Metsola's speech this morning? Watch it in the video below.
Reminder: we expect the results of the first round of voting at 11am.
Pros and cons
9.56am Should Metsola be elected EP president, it will mean that there will be two Maltese people seated at EU Council meetings for the next two-and-a-half years (herself, as well as Prime Minister Robert Abela).
Not bad for what is, by some distance, the EU’s smallest member state.
On the other hand, a Metsola presidency will mean one less Maltese person within the EP’s various committees.
Metsola is a member of the LIBE committee, forms part of parliament’s bureau and is part of the EP’s delegation for relations with the United States. She’s also a substitute on two other committees (one focused on the environment, the other on artificial intelligence).
Why Metsola is likely to become president
9.42am Mark Laurence Zammit is in Strasbourg and has spent the past days speaking to some of the parliament's movers and shakers.
He says the consensus is pretty clear, and it's in Metsola's favour.
MEPs, cast your votes
9.36am Round one of voting is now open, with MEPs having until 10.15am to cast their vote.
Voting is secret and blank or spoiled votes will not count as votes cast.
Counting will then take another 45 minutes, with the results of round one expected at 11am.
Smiles and selfies
9.32am The mood around Metsola is upbeat, Mark Laurence Zammit tells us from Strasbourg, with MEPs crowding around her chat and take photos.
Next up: round one of voting
9.27am With all three candidates having spoken, the plenary session is suspended for a couple of minutes while the first round of voting is prepared.
Reminder: MEPs will be voting electronically, starting at 9.30am. Each MEP gets one vote, with candidates needing to secure an absolute majority to be declared the winner.
Rigo: 'The right seems to be very porous'
9.20am The third and final candidate - Spanish MEP Sira Rigo - also pays tribute to Sassoli.
She emphasises the climate emergency and also warns against backsliding on abortion - perhaps a dig at Metsola, who has been characterised as an anti-abortion politician by many continental news outlets.
"Let us not give in to reactionaries and their allies," she says.
Metsola: President must bring people together
9.15am Metsola lays out her priorities: from modernising parliamentary practices, to encouraging diversity and tolerance.
"Our president must bridge differences and hold the centre," she notes, as she rattles off some of the divisive issues that she has managed to build cross-party consensus on. "I will not shy away from difficult decisions and will always - always - represent the views of this House."
"I am a woman from a small Mediterranean island. I know what it is to be the underdog," she tells the plenary.
Another big round of applause as she walks back to her seat.
A round of applause for Metsola
9.12am Metsola is the next candidate to speak, and her name prompts a round of applause from MEPs in the chamber.
Metsola begins her speech by recalling David Sassoli, the president who died last week, and pledges to build on the collaborative efforts he brought to the EP.
"Tolerance means making space for difference," she says, namedropping Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterand.
Alice Kuhnke: 'Let us practice what we preach'
9.09am Swedish MEP Alice Bah Kuhnke presents herself to the plenary.
"As your president, I will work tirelessly for a European Parliament where diversity is an asset," she says, calling also for a greener parliament that practices what it preaches.
And then there were three...
9.05am One of the four candidates - Kosma Zlotowski – has withdrawn his candidacy. No reason was given.
That means that just three candidates remain – and all three are women.
A birthday present
9am It’s a special day for Metsola, in more ways than you might think: apart from it being the biggest day of her political career so far, it’s also her 43rd birthday.
How does voting work?
8.57am MEPs will vote for their favoured candidate, in a first round of voting.
Due to COVID-19, voting will take place electronically, through an anonymised system. MEPs have 45 minutes to cast their vote.
If one candidate secures an absolute majority, then the election is over and a winner is declared.
If no absolute majority is obtained, the lowest-ranking candidate is dropped and MEPs vote for a second time. If there is still no absolute majority winner, the bottom candidate is eliminated and we head to a third round. And so on.
There are 705 MEPs in the European Parliament, meaning a candidate must secure 353 votes to win.
Abela and Grech in Strasbourg
8.51am Both Robert Abela and Bernard Grech are in Strasbourg and met with Metsola on Monday evening. They'll both be hoping to bask in the glow of her (presumed) victory.
Here's what the two political leaders told us, on the eve of the election.
What's in it for the S&D?
8.48am The S&D said on Monday night that it had “reached a deal” with the EPP and Renew Europe: meaning in effect that its MEPs will back Metsola in the election.
But what will they get in return?
According to Politico, the S&D has been promised five of the EP’s 14 vice-presidencies and the head of the Conference of Committee Chairs – a post that is usually occupied by an EPP MEP.
Who are the other candidates?
8.31am Metsola is the clear frontrunner. But she is not running uncontested.
Swedish MEP Alice Bah Kuhnke is running as a Greens candidate; Spanish MEP Sira Rego is representing the Left; and Polish MEP Kosma Zlotowski is running as the European Conservatives and Reformists candidate.
But while anything can happen in an election, EU insiders say that Metsola's victory is practically a foregone conclusion at this stage, with even the S&D grouping having pledged its support.
What to expect?
8.27am Good morning, and welcome to our live blog.
Things will kick off at 9am, when each of the four candidates will give a five-minute speech to their colleagues in plenary in Strasbourg, highlighting their vision for the parliament.
It's their last chance to convince MEPs to vote for them - though in reality, most of the votes have already been locked in, as a result of backroom deals.
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