The European Parliament will elect a new President on Tuesday. The man most likely to win is the Irish liberal Pat Cox. He has pledged to bring the European Union's only elected body closer to its citizens.
Pat Cox - a man with a mission.
In an interview with DW-WORLD.DE, Pat Cox said that he had two main tasks: reforming the European Parliaments internal procedures and strengthening its role in European policy making.
Cox wants to raise the European Parliament's profile. But since EU citizens hardly know what powers the assembly has, he's facing an uphill battle.
The Parliament has existed since 1952 and people in the EU member countries have been able to elected their representatives for the Parliament directly in Europe-wide polls since 1979.
But nevertheless, the assembly has played only a secondary role in building today's EU.
For decades, the European Parliament was mainly an observer and commentator. The real political power lay with the EU commission and the national governments and parliaments of the member countries.
The European Parliament only gained the power of co-legislator in a growing number of policy areas in the 1990s through the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties.
Rethinking its role
The new President of the European Parliament is taking over at a challenging time.
The 626-member assembly is rethinking its role and structure ahead of the expected
enlargement of the European Union to 10 more member states in 2004.
In his interview with DW-WORLD.DE, Cox made clear that the EU should stick to its timetable for enlargement.
He said many candidate countries had been promised accession to the EU within five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. That historic date in 1989 was now 13 years away.
Cox reminded the EU member nations to make sure the most developed candidate countries could join the Union soon. "The hand of history is now touching us, and we must respond," Cox said.