Thursday

13th Aug 2020

Greens reject von der Leyen's EU commission bid

  • Keller, Lamberts and von der Leyen at the meeting of the green group (Photo: European Parliament)

The Greens of the European parliament will not back Ursula von der Leyen nomination to become the next European Commission president, the group said in a statement on Wednesday evening (10 July).

The decision comes after Green MEPs were left unsatisfied with the German defence minister's responses in a hearing with the group.

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"The statements of Ursula von der Leyen were disappointing. We did not hear any concrete proposal, be it on rule of law or on climate. We have been elected on a mandate for change and we don't see how change will be possible with this candidate," Green co-chair Ska Keller said in a statement.

Co-chair Philippe Lamberts added that "only a few weeks after the climate elections", von der Leyen "is ignoring the climate emergency and even wants to aim for lower climate targets than previously agreed by the European Parliament".

The Belgian MEP said the Greens stand behind the lead candidate process, which was meant to catapult the man or woman nominated by the group which won the European elections into to the top commission job.

The 60-year old von der Leyen was nominated by EU heads of states and governments last week, despite not having run as a lead candidate in the European elections.

The Greens have proved to be the toughest hurdle for the German Christian democrat politician, an ally of chancellor Angela Merkel, as she met with parliamentary groups on Wednesday in Brussels.

To secure a broad majority in the 751-seat European Parliament in next week's vote to be approved as commission president, von der Leyen needs the support of the fourth largest group - the 74 Green MEPs.

The Greens' move could sway the mood even further against von der Leyen among the Socialists, some of whom are already sceptical about von der Leyen and are upset about EU leaders disregard for the lead candidate process.

This would push von der Leyen's support base in the parliament further to the right.

Green MEP Ernest Urtasun said after the meeting that the German minister made "no relevant effort to get the Green votes".

"It was a simple courtesy visit. She is without any doubt counting on ECR [European Conservatives and Reformists] to get elected, which really creates a more than doubtful majority around the next European Commission. Sad for Europe if this is confirmed," he said.

The 60-member ECR, with whom von der Leyen met with on Tuesday, will decide next Monday whether to support the German minister for the commission top post.

But Polish members have also indicated they might reject her because the Polish ruling party, Law and Justice's candidates for parliament committee jobs were voted down earlier on Wednesday.

HR issues

Green MEPs grilled her on climate, trade, taxes and rule of law.

"The president of the European Commission needs to be the guardian of the rule of law and European values. Ursula von der Leyen evaded our questions on the rule of law and democracy in Europe. This is a major shortcoming on one of the main questions that the EU is confronted with," Keller said.

When Green MEP Terry Reintke questioned von der Leyen whether she would support Dutch commission vice-president Frans Timmermans to continue his work on rule of law, von der Leyen said he could have the position if he wants it.

But she evaded questionson whether she would expel Hungary's ruling Fidesz party from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), to which she belongs.

Von der Leyen also refused to answer when MEP Sven Giegold asked if she would hold onto Martin Selmayr, the commission's chief civil servant, EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's former German chief of staff, whose appointment last year the EU ombudsman criticised as "maladministration".

Von der Leyen said it was not good to talk about "HR issues publicly" and added that she would like to have an international team.

"This non-answer will nurture rumours that he [Selmayr] might stay in a key commission position," Giegold said later.

MEPs will vote on the new commission president next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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.

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.

Feature

Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination

After a inconclusive meeting with Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament on Monday, all Green MEPs will now get to meet her on Wednesday - ahead of the key vote on her nomination as EU Commission president.

EU parliament to vote on von der Leyen next week

MEPs will vote next Tuesday on the new commission president candidate, but her approval is far from certain. Von der Leyen will have to rely on votes from the right wing of the parliament to get the top job.

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