Members of the European Parliament are voting to select a president for the assembly at a meeting in Strasbourg.
The winning candidate will replace Antonio Tajani in the role, which is similar to a chairperson or speaker.
Italian former journalist David Sassoli topped the first ballot with 325 votes. It now goes to a second round.
The vote comes a day after EU leaders agreed nominations for the bloc’s top jobs, with a woman for the first time proposed as European Commission chief.
The surprise choice of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen to replace Jean-Claude Juncker followed days of difficult negotiations that saw the main front-runners rejected.
Her nomination has to be approved by a majority of MEPs in a vote to be held in Strasbourg on 15 July. Mrs von der Leyen is due to visit MEPs on Wednesday to discuss her nomination. If her candidacy is rejected, national leaders will have a month to nominate a replacement.
Christine Lagarde, the French current head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been nominated as the first woman to lead the European Central Bank (ECB).
Belgian liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel has been chosen to replace European Council President Donald Tusk.
Spain’s foreign minister Josep Borrell is nominated as EU foreign policy chief. A Catalan economist, he held the post of European Parliament president from 2004-2007.
Who are the contenders for parliament presidency?
On Wednesday, members of the European Parliament elected in May began voting in a secret ballot for their choice of one of four candidates.
Ahead of the vote, contenders for the position were given a few minutes each to pitch their ideas to fellow MEPs in the Strasbourg assembly:
- David Sassoli, centre-left Democratic Party (Italian): “I am applying because I believe that Europe will be stronger only with a European Parliament capable of playing a more important role.”
- Ska Keller, European Green Party (German): “The European Union is more important than ever. You have answered the hateful rhetoric of the European right… with a mandate to strengthen the European Union.”
- Jan Zahradil, Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (Czech): “Among the four candidates I am the only one who comes from Central/Eastern Europe, from outside the eurozone, from a small/medium-sized country.”
- Sira Rego, European United Left-Nordic Green Left (Spanish): “Time is running out for the future of our planet. Neoliberal solutions and carbon trading are not going to solve this climate crisis.”
To be elected, a candidate must win half of the valid votes cast plus one, and there can be up to four rounds of voting.
If no candidate is elected in the first ballot, the same or new candidates can be nominated in the second or third round.
If no-one is elected at the third ballot, the two candidates with the most votes in that round proceed to a fourth and final ballot, where the one receiving the greater number of votes wins.