The legislature is for a five-year term but according to tradition halfway through the term a swap is made so that an EPP member takes over the leadership of the Parliament from an PES MEP or vice versa. There was a dramatic turn of event in July 1999, when contrary to the time-honoured cross-party arrangements of the last 25 years, the EPP negotiated a political agreement with the ELDR in a bid to take the Presidency from the PES. It was then agreed that Pat Cox would slip into the shoes of Nicole Fontaine. Since then, all the signs have been that this unprecedented deal would not happen. Consequently, during many major votes, the ELDR has tended to side more with the PES than with its ally the EPP, particularly when it comes to social issues such as biotechnology. Moreover, Mr Cox is not a typical Irish politician (he is not a member of either of the two major Irish parties) but has solid skills and some political astuteness. The man's personality irks more than a few of his colleagues. First and foremost among his own compatriots, his determination to be a force to be reckoned with has made him one or two enemies. He was a member of the Fianna Fail, whose policies he challenged so that he and other progressive democrats could forge a liberal movement. He lost the chance of leading the Party to the current Deputy Prime Minister Mary Harney so he preferred to bow out. He now stands as an independent but one with liberal credentials. More than any other Irish politician Mr Cox has no qualms about supporting abortion, subject to certain conditions, which does not exactly endear him to various Christian Democrat MEPs. A long-time champion of the Northern Ireland peace process and of promoting a dialogue with Sinn Fein, some Spanish EPP members suspected him of sympathising with terrorism. His pro-European commitment based on a cautious yet tangle federalist approach. This had no doubt frightened away some British Conservatives even though the Tory delegation, the biggest one after the CDU/CSU within the EPP, has lent its support to the Irishman. The delegation's decision was presumably influenced by the sharp exchange of words Hans Gert Pottering had with the Conservative leader, Ian Duncan-Smith, during the EPP summit in Meise, on the sidelines of the Laeken Summit (see European Report 2644, same Section). "I am firmly convinced the British delegation will lend its support and I get on very well with the new head of delegation, Jonathan...

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