For just the third time in the history of the European Parliament, a woman is leading it.
Roberta Metsola, a 43-year-old conservative lawmaker from Malta, will be at the helm of the body for the next two and a half years.
But she faces strong criticism from many of her colleagues for her voting record against abortion.
Metsola told Euronews she will represent the European Parliament’s view on women’s reproductive rights, rather than her own.
“With me, they know that the position of the Parliament is my position…Also, for example, in Poland on the abortion law there, when I presented that law to the Senate of Poland, I promoted the position because it was the position of the Parliament. That is exactly what I will do throughout my mandate as president on this issue. The position of the Parliament is unambiguous and unequivocal, and that is also my position,” Metsola said.
Malta is the only EU member state to have a complete ban on abortion, while massive protests erupted last year in Poland when the Constitutional Court tightened the already strict restrictions there.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who supported Metsola as the new president, however, used his speech before the European Parliament the following day to call for an updated European Charter of Human Rights that includes the right to an abortion as a human right.
Macron was in Strasbourg to detail priorities for France’s six-month presidency of the EU.
The French President urged the EU to forge its own security pact with Russia amid ongoing efforts to prevent a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s good that Europeans and the United States coordinate, but it’s necessary that Europeans conduct their own dialogue,” Macron said.
“We must put together a joint proposal, a joint vision, a new security and stability order for Europe. We should build as Europeans working with other Europeans and with NATO and then propose it for negotiation with Russia in the next few weeks.”
But diplomats in Brussels weren’t exactly happy with Macron’s comments.
Following the statement, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell held a telephone call with US secretary of state Antony Blinken and NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg where they agreed on the need for “a strong, clear and united transatlantic front” while Borrell invited Blinken to attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.
Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt told Euronews that the situation with Russia was concerning.
“It’s the most dangerous situation that we had in Europe since the early 1960s, as a matter of fact, because what we had in the world in the early 60s where the Soviet leader Khrushchev..had suddenly decided to do things,” Bildt said.
“In the same way, now we have a Russian leader who suddenly does things that are fundamentally changing the order. And that is profoundly dangerous. We don’t know where we might end up. But it is a dangerous situation. No question about that.”