On Von der Leyen’s D-Day, confirmation vote is anything but sure
Unhappy socialist and liberal MEPs could upset Ursula von der Leyen’s bid to be the next European Commission president in a vote this week, the EU Observer reports.
However she made last-minute pledges on the climate crisis, Brexit, an EU minimum wage and gender quotas for company boards as she faces a knife-edge vote on her candidacy.
The German centre-right candidate needs at least 374 out of 747 votes to get past the finish line. The vote on her nomination is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Should she fail to win enough votes the EU would be left in uncharted territory, with the parliament pitted against the leaders on the issue of commission presidency, and with few easy fixes available.
For their part, British diplomats estimated von der Leyen would only get 357 votes in an informal calculation doing the rounds in EP corridors.
The British count assumed all Renew Europe MEPs would toe the group line. But an EP source said up to 20 of Renew Europe’s 108 deputies might abstain in protest, especially if von der Leyen declined the group’s demand to reform the EU election system.
If Von der Leyen passed the 374 threshold but failed to receive the backing of 400 MEPs there would be questions over her ability to lead the EU’s policy agenda given the fragility of her majority.
In letters to the Socialists and Democrats and the liberal group, Renew Europe, sent on Monday and obtained by the Guardian, Von der Leyen has pledged to give parliament a role in initiating legislation and says she will push forward on stalled progressive policies on climate change, wages and gender equality.
In her written responses to demands issued following her meetings with the political groups last week, von der Leyen reiterated her commitment “to improve” the Spitzenkandidat, or lead candidate system, which was effectively killed when the European Council nominated her for the EU’s top job.
Von der Leyen also tried to walk a tightrope regarding a demand by liberals that their candidate for Commission president, Margrethe Vestager, have a title equal to the Socialist candidate, Frans Timmermans, who is currently the Commission first vice president. Von der Leyen had told Socialists that Timmermans would retain that rank, angering the liberals.
“The Commission leadership team consists of the President and two executive vice-Presidents,” von der Leyen wrote. “One of the two, the First Vice-President will replace the President in her absence.”
POLITICO reports that in her letters, von der Leyen suggested she had a very busy weekend and said she had “prepared detailed Political Guidelines for the next European Commission” that “cover the entire range of policies which the European Union will have to work on” and said she would provide a copy to MEPs in writing on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile although Ursula von der Leyen isn’t European Commission president, she’s already effectively firing people, or rather just one person: Martin Selmayr.
Selmayr, the powerful Commission secretary-general, is out if she is confirmed to the EU’s top job, von der Leyen told members of the European Parliament from her own European People’s Party (EPP) on Monday.