Strasbourg, France – The center-right Despite controversy over her anti-abortion stance, Maltese member Roberta Metsola, who was elected as just the third woman to lead the European Parliament on Tuesday, is seen as a political centrist.
Elected on the day she turns 43, the lawmaker from the European Union’s smallest country becomes the chamber’s youngest president ever. She takes over at a difficult time for the legislature, which is grieving the tragic death of its speaker, David Sassoli, who died last week.
Metsola, a member of the largest parliamentary bloc, the European People’s Party, was already the favourite to replace the centre-left Italian parliament head under an agreement reached by the major political groups.
She is no stranger to the EU’s labyrinthine political structures, having served as Sassoli’s chamber’s senior vice president. “I think we have a convincing candidate: young, female, from a small country” EPP parliamentary chairman Manfred Weber remarked.
Metsola’s career has been entwined with her Mediterranean homeland’s EU membership – and her elevation to a position generally dominated by parliamentarians from larger nations might help put a light on sometimes neglected countries.
She campaigned as a student for the victorious “Yes” vote when Malta voted to join the EU in 2003. She then went on to work in Brussels after graduating from the exclusive College of Europe in Bruges, which produces Eurocrats.
On her third attempt, in 2013, she was elected as an MEP on the platform of Malta’s Nationalist Party.
“It took me nearly ten years to be elected to the European Parliament. I might have given up, but I didn’t “The mother of four sons penned a letter.
She quickly rose through the ranks of the EPP in parliament, addressing issues such as immigration and media freedom.
Metsola was appointed vice president in 2020 when an Irish senator, Mairead McGuinness, resigned to become an EU commissioner.
Metsola was regarded as a “a moderate member of the EPP and very good at bridging” across political factions by one Green MEP at the time. She rose to popularity last year after filling in for Sassoli at a number of high-profile events while he was ill with pneumonia.
However, due to her aversion to abortion, which is still illegal in mostly Catholic Malta, her nomination for the top job was met with criticism from some MPs.
Metsola, who describes herself as a pro-LGBTQ progressive, voted against a report in June urging all EU member states to “ensure universal access to safe and legal abortion” for women, claiming it violated Malta’s freedom to choose.
Metsola’s views on abortion were labeled as her “weak spot” by one legislator. It led the Greens and other left-wing political parties to nominate pro-choice feminists as candidates for parliament’s top job.
Metsola, on the other hand, has stated that if president, she will set her own views aside and reflect the majority position of the house.
“As president of the Parliament my duty is to represent the view of the Parliament and if I am elected, I will do my duty as I have always done.”