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19th Jan 2020

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Von der Leyen vote the focus This WEEK

  • Ursula von der Leyen will address and debate MEPs on Tuesday morning (Photo: European Parliament)

All eyes turn to Strasbourg next week, when on Tuesday (16 July) MEPs will vote on whether German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen should become the next EU commission president.

European lawmakers will hear from von der Leyen at 9am, then the heads of political groups will speak, then von der Leyen has the floor again to address the group leaders' questions.

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In the second round, MEPs will react to the German candidate - who would be the first-ever female to head the EU commission, before she will again have the possibility to answer in the end.

The vote will take place in the evening, at 6pm, so that groups have enough time to reflect on what was heard.

The vote will be secret and not done electronically, so the final outcome will be known around 7pm, a parliament spokesperson said on Friday (12 July).

Von der Leyen needs to get 374 votes to get the 751-member parliament's approval for the commission top job, in what looks like being a tight race.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) will vote in favour of the 60-year-old Christian Democrat politician, von der Leyen, while the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have been "bitterly disappointed" by the process that led to EU leaders nominating the German defence minister - after first mulling both EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber and his S&D equivalent Frans Timmermans - before finally disregarding the lead candidate process entirely.

The S&D group leader Iratxe Garcia on Thursday (11 July) sent a letter to von der Leyen outlining detailed socialist policy ideas that the group wants the German nominee to agree to in return for their votes.

The liberals of Renew Europe also sent a letter to von der Leyen on Thursday urging her to commit to transnational lists for the next European elections, to introduce a rule of law mechanism, and to make sure that Danish liberal commissioner Margrethe Vestager gets a strong vice-president position in the commission - on an equal footing with Dutch commissioner Frans Timmermans.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which include the Polish ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), are split and will discuss their position on Monday and Tuesday in Strasbourg.

ECR spokesperson Gareth Goldsmith said on Friday that the group is "open minded", but it is difficult to be a part of a cross-party consensus when ECR candidates were denied a committee chair position.

The Greens and the far left have already said they will reject von der Leyen.

Far-right Identity and Democracy spokesperson Philip Claeys said it is "not likely" the group will support von der Leyen, but that they will make a decision on Monday morning.

He added that they are looking for von der Leyen to be tougher on migration, and leave member states alone with regards to rule of law.

Goodbye Romania, hello Finland

MEPs will also debate the outgoing Romanian EU presidency during an exchange on Tuesday (16 July) afternoon with Romanian prime minister Viorica Dancila.

The incoming Finnish EU presidency will have a chance to outline their plans on rule of law, the EU budget, climate and other issues for the next six months on Wednesday (17 July) morning with Finnish premier Antti Rinne summing those up in a speech.

On Tuesday, the parliament will debate the ongoing humanitarian situation in the Mediterranean Sea, where dozens of activists and NGOs have been put under legal procedures for trying to stop people from drowning.

On Tuesday afternoon in Strasbourg, committee chairs are expected to hold hearings with the two interim European commissioner candidates, Ioan Mircea Pascu from Romania and Kadri Simson from Estonia - if outgoing EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker informs the parliament officially by then on their nomination.

A vote on them will take place on Thursday. They replace two previous commissioners who took up their mandates as MEPs.

MEPs will also adopt a resolution on the latest situation in Venezuela, and MEPs will also look at latest developments in Iran, Hong Kong, and situation of migrants at the USA-Mexican border.

Ministers' talk

Foreign affairs ministers will gather in Brussels on Monday (15 July), who will discuss migration, Iran, and other pressing international issues.

Over lunch, foreign ministers will meet with Moldovan foreign minister, Nicolae Popescu.

On Tuesday and Wendesday, Juncker, EU council president Donald Tusk, and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will head to Montreal, Canada, for an EU-Canada summit, partly taking stock of the free trade deal that came into force in 2017.

EU affairs ministers will discuss on Thursday the long-term EU budget, rule of law in Poland and the implementation of the strategic agenda for the next five years.

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