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21st Jul 2019

Feature

Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination

  • German nominee for the EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, could still get the job without the support of the Greens in the European Parliament - but that might mean relying on eurosceptic votes (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ursula von der Leyen cannot yet count on the votes of the Greens in the European Parliament for her candidacy for the presidency of the European Commission.

"She got there only thanks to Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. I am not convinced she will be able to take decisions that go against their national interest", Philippe Lamberts, the co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament said on Tuesday (8 July) on Belgian radio.

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When the EU's national leaders last week made public their compromise plan on the European top jobs, many Green MEPs were unhappy.

"Congratulations Council. Rule of law slaughtered for some positions for Merkel, Macron and Sanchez", Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout tweeted.

The official reaction of the Greens/European Free Alliance group was less harsh, but not less clear. Co-president of the group, Ska Keller MEP, said that the "backroom stitch-up after days of talks is grotesque, it satisfies no one but party power games."

Despite that immediate rejection of the EU top jobs compromise, the Greens agreed to meet with von der Leyen, currently the German defence minister.

On Monday (7 July) both co-presidents of the group had a conversation with her. The spokesperson of the Greens called the meeting "constructive".

However, von der Leyen has not convinced both presidents yet. "It is clear that she doesn't know the European environment at all", Lamberts said.

Numbers game

Next week the European Parliament will vote on the nomination of von der Leyen. In theory, she does not need the support of the Greens. The conservatives of the European People's Party (EPP), the Socialists & Democrats and the liberals of Renew Europe have together 444 votes - while only 376 are needed to secure the needed absolute majority of the votes.

But that is in theory. Many socialist MEPs were even harsher than the Greens in their reaction to her nomination. While the votes of the EPP and Renew are more or less secured, it appears that quite a few socialists may not support her.

If von der Leyen would have to rely on the support of the eurosceptics of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group - more specifically of the PiS, the ruling party of Poland - that would hurt her European credibility, according to some European officials.

Therefore von der Leyen has decided to meet with the Greens again on Wednesday. This time she will not only speak to both co-president but to the entire group.

Lamberts said he doesn't exclude anything, but called the atmosphere at the Greens "rather negative". "She has plenty of goodwill", he added, "but if the house is on fire, is goodwill then enough? I don't feel the spark with her. She wants our votes, but my impression is she is not willing to do the necessary to get our votes."

What this "necessary" means is not entirely clear. In the official communication the Greens want a re-orientation of the European policy by decreasing the ecological footprint and increasing democracy.

More cynical institutional sources say that the Greens could be convinced by the promise of a Green European commissioner.

The Greens, however, are part of few EU national governments. According to one European diplomat, von der Leyen could force one of these governments to send a Green commissioner to Brussels, just as Juncker pushed governments to send women to the commission in 2014.

Greens eye 'kingmaker' role among MEPs for von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen immediately visited the European Parliament on Wednesday in order to gather support for her nomination to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as EU Commission president. The Greens will now be key for her to secure the job.

Agenda

Von der Leyen and Greece in focus This WEEK

The EU parliament committees will start their work, as MEPs reflect on approving Ursula von der Leyen as new commission chief. Meanwhile, Greek is about to take a conservative turn.

Analysis

EU top jobs: winners, losers, and institutional battles

The decision on the top jobs shed light on key developments in the EU: the changing of the centre-right guard, the failure of the spitzen-system, Germany's confidence, Macron's political success, and the illiberal problem.

Greens reject von der Leyen's EU commission bid

The fourth largest group in the parliament does not back EU leaders' nominee for the commission top job, pushing Ursula von der Leyen's possible base further to the right.

Feature

Who is Frans Timmermans?

The Dutch frontrunner for president of the European Commission is popular at home - but seen as the personification of an unfairly-critical Brussels in some central and eastern member states.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

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