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Center-Right and Socialists Aim for Deal on EU Parliament Presidency

The center-right and Socialist groups in the European Parliament are meeting Thursday to decide who should be the body's president.

The center-right and Socialist groups in the European Parliament will hold a meeting on Thursday to stitch up the presidency of the Brussels assembly between them. The leader of the Socialist Party, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and head of the Socialist group (PES) in the Parliament, Enrique Baron Crespo, will meet their European People Party's (EPP) counterparts, Wilfried Martens and Hans-Gert Pöttering, Thursday to try to hammer out an agreement. The EPP, the biggest group in the parliament, met with the liberals Wednesday on the issue, but a source said a deal is expected to be made with the Socialists. EPP sources expected that the group would decide Thursday to split the five-year presidency between themselves and the Socialists, with the Socialists in power for the first two and a half years and the center-right for the more influential second half of the term. Hans-Gert Pöttering is expected to take over for the center-right. The two political groups are also set to make a pact to make progress in other areas, such as the disputed question of the MEPs' pay system which has been a controversial issue in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the head of the French Socialists delegation, Pervench Beres, said "the technical accord between the European Socialist Party and the European People's Party will be finalized on Thursday." However, some cautioned against being too hasty. "This still has be discussed with the whole of the Socialist group," said a PES insider. "We are not there yet." At the moment, the names most frequently mentioned for a Socialist president are UK labor MEP Terry Wynn, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard and former French Foreign Minister Pierre Moscovici. ( EUobserver.com)