STRASBOURG, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Antonio Tajani of the European People's Party Group promised "total availability" to all political groups in an acceptance speech in Strasbourg after being elected President of the European Parliament on Tuesday evening.
"Allow me to thank all of you, those who voted for me and those who voted for my friend Gianni Pittella in this last round," Tajani declared in his first speech from the head of the hemicycle, just minutes after the results were announced. "And I would like to thank all of those who voted for other candidates from other political groups."
"As I said today, I will be the President of all I will respect all members of Parliament and all groups," the new head of the European Parliament insisted after his victory.
Tajani led the first three rounds of voting, but was not able to secure the absolute majority necessary to win earlier in the day.
After the grueling contest, he emerged victorious after defeating Gianni Pittella, leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, in a final fourth voting round, by 351 votes to 282.
A founder of the Forza Italia party, Tajani is former European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and has a reputation for strong commitment to business and deep personal ethics.
At the end of his work at the European Commission, Tajani refused the so-called "golden handshake," a three-year 468,000-euro(about 501,000 U.S. dollars) payout to former Commissioners intended to help them transition out of the public sector.
Tajani takes over the Presidency in a difficult time for European politics, with ongoing economic and migrant crises, internal and external security concerns, Brexit, and the ever-present threat of terrorism looming over the continent.
Critics on the left-wing of the hemicycle have accused President Tajani of being a supporter of failed austerity politics, with S&D Vice-President Udo Bullmann claiming in a press release last week that the Italian's election would lead to "three more years of disastrous neo-liberal economic policies."
For his part, Antonio Tajani promised to represent all interests, addressing his colleagues before the first round of voting in English, French, and his native Italian.
He also dedicated his victory to the victims of the recent earthquake that struck central Italy last October, many of whom are still in difficult conditions as a predicted cold snap descends on Europe this week: "I think we should express our solidarity to all of them, as well as we should express our solidarity to all the victims of terrorism. And those who are suffering at the moment. Those who are homeless and those that are unemployed."
President Tajani closed on a note of cooperation: "I think this is a common feeling which we all share. And I think this is the message Strasbourg should share with all our citizens."
He replaces outgoing Socialist President Martin Schulz, whom he thanked for the work he did during his mandate, and will serve a renewable 2.5-year term.
Tajani takes office immediately and, in his first duties, will oversee the election of 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors on Wednesday.