Antonio Tajani, a keen supporter of co-operative enterprise, has been elected president of the European Parliament.
“We must devote our attention to all those who are in tough living conditions,” he said in a short speech after the election, which he won with 351 votes.
His rival Giani Pitella (Italy, S&D), who also expressed support for co-ops, polled 282 votes. The election ran for four rounds to pass a required majority of 346.
An ex-officer in Italy’s air force who has also worked as spokesman for Italy’s former PM Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Tajani has occupied several positions in Europe.
He was European commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship from 2009-2014 and a vice president of the European Commission (EC).
In 2013 he created the working group on the promotion of cooperatives within the EC, which drafted concrete recommendations for EU policy on co-ops’ potential to generate jobs.
Mr Tajani believes “the DNA of co-operatives is based on solidarity”.
Cooperatives Europe, the European office of the International Co-operative Alliance, welcomed the result.
“As a supporter of the social economy model and as an ex-commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, we hope that Mr Tajani’s presidency will bring further visibility and recognition to co-operative entrepreneurship,” said Dirk Lehnhoff, president of Cooperatives Europe.
“Co-operative enterprises put citizens at the heart of their operations. Mr Tajani’s strong commitment to serving the people of Europe and the role of the Parliament in representation of the citizens should encourage and enhance dialogue between the co-operative movement and the EU Parliament.
“We look forward to working with him.”
Under new powers granted by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the European Parliament has a bigger role in law-making and deciding what the EU does and how money is spent. It will also have a final vote on whether to approve a Brexit deal with the UK.