Ex-Polish premier Buzek voted EU parliament president



STRASBOURG, Yann Ollivier - Former Polish premier Jerzy Buzek was elected president Tuesday of the European Parliament, becoming the first deputy from the ex-communist east to preside over the assembly.
Buzek, from the conservative European People's Party (EPP) won the endorsement of the parliament by 555 votes, to 89 for Sweden's Eva-Britt Svensson, from the communist European United Left.
After his election Buzek paid tribute to the millions of Europeans who worked to bring down the Iron Curtain, finally ending Europe's post-WWII division.



Ex-Polish premier Buzek voted EU parliament president
"This is a symbolic day," he told the lawmakers in Strasbourg. "A representative from a country of central and eastern Europe has become, thanks to your will, president of the European parliament."
"I consider my election to be a signal for our countries" from eastern Europe, most of which joined the European Union in 2004.
"I also consider it to be a homage to the millions of citizens who refused to bow to a hostile system," he said, in his native Polish language. "There is no longer you and us. Now there is only one Europe shared" by all.
The vote came at the start of the first plenary session of the new assembly's five-year term, following elections across the 27 EU nations from June 4-7.
The ballot was conducted by hand and took more than an hour to complete, in contrast to the usual electronic vote.
Buzek, 69, replaces Germany's Hans-Gert Poettering until early 2012, before handing over to the socialist bloc, probably leader Martin Schulz, under an arrangement between the two factions.
As he was elected, almost exactly 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Buzek urged the EU to keep human rights to the fore in its dealings with Russia.
"Never in negotiations with a partner as big as Russia can we be allowed to forget the question of human rights," he told reporters, after the vote.
"We have to realise the differences that exist when it comes to human rights and the citizen," between the EU and Russia, he said.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk hailed Buzek's election, saying the move was a symbol of European integration.
"The victory of Jerzy Buzek is a symbolic moment, confirming the effective integration of what is called new and old Europe," Tusk told reporters in Warsaw. "It's a great day for Poland and we must celebrate it."
While the post of president is prestigious, it has little influence over the 736-member parliament, which is the European Union's only elected institution and also sits in Brussels.
The assembly examines, amends and endorses many of the thousands of European rules which effect the lives of almost half a billion people, and its powers will grow if the bloc's new Lisbon Treaty of reforms enters force.
"We can only manage well if we adopt and sign the Treaty of Lisbon. This will help us," Buzek said ahead of the vote. "It will help us to work better in the international arena, where we have obligations."
The treaty, which will facilitate decision-making in the 27-nation bloc and create a more long-term president and foreign policy supremo, was rejected in a referendum in Ireland just over a year ago.
Irish voters are set to return to the polls on October 2, after winning assurances it will not weaken Ireland's sovereignty, and surveys suggest it will pass this time, paving the way for the treaty to enter force next year.
But Buzek also underlined that the priority for the house should be the resolution of the global financial and economic crisis.
"We have to realise that we're in a crisis now. Europeans are expecting a resolution of this problem," he told the lawmakers, almost half of whom are new to the parliament.
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Tuesday, July 14th 2009
Yann Ollivier
           


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