Roberta Metsola has officially entered the race to become the next president of the European Parliament, Times of Malta can reveal.
“This is an internal process, but I can confirm that I will be a candidate to be the EPP Group’s nominee for president of the European Parliament,” she said.
It means that the Nationalist MEP will contest the European People’s Party’s internal election on November 24, and if successful, will be the group’s candidate for the presidency in January.
Metsola made the move after months spent gauging her support and lobbying her centre-right EPP colleagues.
“Over the next days, I will continue speaking to my colleagues about how they see the role of the parliament in the second half of the legislature and how they want our institution to evolve.”
So far only one other MEP from the group, long-serving Austrian MEP Othmar Karas, has entered the contest. But the deadline for nominations is not until November 22, with Dutch MEP Esther de Lange also expected to declare.
Metsola said she wants to help encourage people “to believe in Europe” and bring decision-making “closer to people in different villages, towns and cities across Europe”.
“The challenges Europe is facing and also the opportunities require the parliament to have a strong clear voice and I am ready to do my part as we work together to re-capture the enthusiasm for our project,” she said.
Her supporters are optimistic about her chances of being chosen to lead the EU’s legislative body.
They cite as advantages her personal qualities of bridge-building, her current high-profile role in parliament and her work on migration, the rule of law and Poland.
However, her position as an MEP from Malta, the smallest EU member state, is considered as a stumbling block by some. Most of the previous elected presidents have come from large countries or founding members like Germany, France and Italy.
EP presidents are elected for two-and-a-half years of the parliament’s five-year term. The presidency is normally divided between the two major political parties, the Socialists and Democrats, who currently hold the post, and the EPP.
Current president, Italian MEP David Sassoli, is due to step down on January 17 but speculation persists that he could attempt to run for a second term.
Metsola has previously stepped in for him in several key occasions when he was hit by illness.
She chaired the State of the Union session and, more recently, the Conference of Presidents, which assembles group leaders and high-profile officials each month.
German MEP Manfred Weber was initially expected to take over as EP president next year, as part of a wider agreement to share out the top EU jobs, but ruled himself out of the race in a tweet in September.
Instead, he announced he would run for re-election for a third term as EPP leader and also attempt to succeed Donald Tusk as president of the party when he steps down in April.
Another potential candidate, Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, has also indicated he will not run.