A German socialist known for his fiery rhetoric was elected president of the European Parliament on Tuesday, promising to increase the role of the 27-nation legislature.
Martin Schulz replaced Poland's Jerzy Buzek, who did not seek re-election. He handily defeated two British legislators in the first round of balloting, winning 387 votes against 142 for Nirj Deva and 141 for Diana Wallis.
Schulz gained international prominence in 2003 when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called him an ideal choice to play a Nazi concentration camp guard in a movie. Berlusconi was forced to apologize later.
The longtime socialist leader in the legislature, Schulz, 56, plans to use his new position to seek more European integration and more political power to help tackle the financial crisis.
He takes the lead at a time when the legislature is seeking a bigger role in EU decision-making after having been sidelined for years by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, and by the regular meetings of the leaders the EU member states, which often push through decisions with no input at all from the legislature.
While predecessors like Buzek often had the charisma of a favorite uncle, Schulz often looks as if he has breakfasted on neat caffeine. His bellicose demeanor belies his education as a librarian.
He served for more than 10 years as the mayor of the city of Wuerselen, in western Germany, and has been a member of the European Parliament since 1994.