|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.36, 4.10.01, p8|
FOR the past two-and-a-half years Liberal Pat Cox has been considered a 'shoo-in' to become the next president of the European Parliament.
His party struck a deal with the centre-right European People's Party back in 1999 that ensured the present incumbent, Nicole Fontaine, would get their vote - on the understanding that the EPP would return the favour when her term ended.
But the Parliament now has a real contest on its hands after the announcement that Cox has a rival for the job - Scottish Socialist David Martin.
Cox, an MEP since 1989, shows no signs of being fazed by this development. On the contrary, the former journalist and television presenter seems delighted at the prospect of a real fight instead of what had been written off as a tedious, one-horse race.
He passionately believes he is the man for the job and says it's his mission to transform the Parliament into a major player on the European and global stage. "I would approach this with enormous energy and I would bring to it every waking hour and every piece of energy and drive and leadership that I would have," says the 48-year-old Cork resident. "The fact that this time round there are candidates, that there will be some debate, that there will be some interest in the house, that already enlivens it. I think democracy and competition are always welcome. Whoever wins will be strengthened as a result of it."
Enlivening the assembly is at the heart of Cox's plans. He sounds presidential and his vision is broader, grander - but also vaguer - than that of the more detail-minded Martin. He says that the institution has been side-lined for too long in decision-making and should be playing a role on the international stage more fitting of the EU's democratically elected chamber. "We need to be able to communicate what is our public purpose and how is it we represent public interest," he says. "So far we have been underperforming in terms of expressing who we are and what we are bringing to this process."
The Parliament lacks overall strategic organisation and direction, he argues, and wants to set up a central forward-planning unit to steer the work of the institution's disparate committees. "It can make us a player; currently I think we are still second best," he says. "The whole process of democratic consent is something which has been paid lots of lip-service but given too little value in the past."
Like Martin, Cox wants to push through changes designed to make the chamber a more lively and media-friendly place, as well as long-stalled reforms of deputies' pay and perks package - the so-called statute. "The statute has been hung about our necks like a millstone now since the end of the last mandate," he says. "The headline objective there is that this really has to be brought to a close." If there are those who doubt he can deliver on his ambitious promises, Cox points to his success in leading the 52-strong Liberal group.
Despite its size, it has become a powerful and unified force in the Parliament. "It used to be said that if you had 50 Liberals you would have 500 views. No more," he says. "We have been able to become a player that boxes considerably above our weight. We've been able to do it by getting up early in the morning, by thinking ahead, by being strategic, by communicating our purpose and by trying to win friends and influence people in the house. I would be determined to take that kind of attitude forward and carry it into a presidency if I could win one." Married with six children, Cox speaks warmly of his rival, describing Martin as a "good pal" and an "excellent candidate".
Confident of victory, he offers Martin an olive branch. "He's younger than me so I would say to him to bide his time," Cox says. "He'd make a fine leader of the house some day. I just hope its not on the same day as I would like to do it."
Interview with Pat Cox, the Liberal candidate in the contest to become the next President of the European Parliament.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|