The newly elected European Parliament president Roberta Metsola from Malta shows small countries can win top jobs in the European Union, Estonian MEPs said on Tuesday.
Metsola was elected on Tuesday, winning 458 votes and beating candidates from Poland, Sweden and Spain.
In many ways, Metsola's candidacy went against expectations as previously most of the EU's top leaders have been men from large countries. She will be the third woman to hold the position.
Discussing the opportunities for small countries to hold important positions, Estonian MEPs Urmaes Paet (Reform) and Sven Mikser (SDE) told ERR's Brussels correspondent Metsola's election proves small countries can have a big impact.
Paet pointed out that smaller countries have held top jobs before, such as Luxembourg. "So to say that people from small European countries have no chance at all - life has shown that this is not the case," he said.
Mikser said smaller countries have opportunities too, especially if there is a delicate balance of power between the bigger countries or they cannot agree with each other.
"Then opportunities open up for smaller ones as well. It is certainly difficult for a very small member state to obtain such an influential position, but as this case shows, it is still possible to do," he said.
MEP Riho Terras (Isamaa) also echoed this view. Writing on social media he said: "Her achievement is significant by showing that representatives of small countries can rise to the very top."
Congratulations to @RobertaMetsola on her birthday and for becoming the president of the @Europarl_EN! Her achievement is significant by showing that representatives of small countries can rise to the very top. Best of luck for the challenges ahead! pic.twitter.com/MxaGPcMw6d— Riho Terras (@RihoTerras) January 18, 2022
Malta joined the European Union in 2004, alongside the Baltic states, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. It has a population of approximately 525,200 people.
After winning, Metsola said: "I am a woman from a small island in the middle of Europe's southern sea. I know what it means to be the underdog. I know what it means to be pigeonholed. But I also know how important this is for people beyond this chamber. I know what this means for every girl watching today."
She replaces David Sassoli, who died earlier this month at the age of 65.
Estonian politicians send congratulations
Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) sent "heartfelt congratulations" to Metsola via social media after her victory, calling her a "friend, colleague, and committed European leader".
"Looking forward to cooperation on climate package, digital transformation and security," she added.
Kallas and Metsola have previously worked together as MEPs in Brussels.
Estonian President Alar Karis also congratulated Metsola.
Congratulations and good luck to @RobertaMetsola on your election to this complex and important job.— Alar Karis (@AlarKaris) January 18, 2022
Latvian MEP elected vice-president of European Parliament
A Latvian MEP has become the first Baltic representative to be elected vice-president of European Parliament, broadcaster LSM reports.
Roberts Zile, an economist, has previously acted as finance and transport minister in Latvia's government and has been an MEP since 2004.
He was elected with the votes of 403 members in the second round of voting.
Editor: Helen Wright