19th Sep 2019

Tusk warns MEPs against institutional battle on top jobs

  • Donald Tusk was heckled by some MEPs after he failed to address the concerns about EU countries ignoring the lead candidate system (Photo: European Parliament)

EU Council president Donald Tusk on Thursday (4 July) urged MEPs not to seek an institutional battle with the EU Council of member states - and not to reject the first woman nominated by national leaders to run the EU Commission for the next five years.

In a speech summing up the EU summit that named the new European leadership team of top posts, Tusk said he hoped for"good cooperation between our institutions".

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"To some, the parliament represents genuine European democracy because of its directly elected members, while to others it is rather the European Council, because of the strong democratic legitimacy of the leaders," Tusk told MEPs.

"In fact, such disputes make little sense, as both institutions are democratic. In the end, we must respect each other and cooperate with each other, because only then can we build trust and change Europe for the better," he argued.

EU leaders nominated German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen this week as the new commission president.

But parliament is fuming that the Spitzenkandidaten system, whereby only lead candidates of European political alliances could be chosen for the top job, was ignored by leaders after the marathon summit.

Tusk urged the parliament not to reject the first-ever woman nominated to head the EU commission.

"Europe is not only talking about women, it is choosing women. I hope that this choice will inspire many girls and women to fight for their beliefs and passions. And I also hope that it will inspire the European parliament in its decisions," he said.

Green appeal

The parliament needs to approve von der Leyen in their next session in Strasbourg two weeks from now in order to make the conservative politician commission chief.

The Greens, the fourth-largest group in the parliament had already said they will vote against von der Leyen, and the Socialists & Democrats have said the result is "deeply disappointing".

"We believe it should have been Frans Timmermans the commission president," group leader Iratxe Garcia said in her speech on Thursday, pointing out that Timmermans was rejected by leaders only because of his tough stance on rule of law.

Tusk, the outgoing EU council chief, particularly reached out to the Greens, saying: "I am fully confident that cooperation with the Greens and their presence in the EU decision-making bodies will benefit not only the governing coalition, but Europe as a whole."

Tusk said he will lobby leaders to "involve Greens in the nominations", althought there is no Green leader among the 28 heads of state and government.

"I hope that the newly-nominated Ursula von der Leyen will also listen to my appeal," he told MEPs. Tusk and von der Leyen will meet later on Thursday.

In response, Green co-chair Philippe Lamberts said he had "doubts".

"I must say around the council table and here in this house, the problem has been involving the Greens not been an effort shared across the board," he said.

Meanwhile, vice-chair of the Green group, Ernest Urtasun, tweeted. "Spectacular. After ignoring us for weeks, now Tusk starts saying that the Greens are very important in this legislature. The green bench is dying of laughter."

Tusk also received criticism from his own centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

"I am not going to congratulate the council. I cannot support how things were done and the lack of respect you have shown to other institutions," MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons said.

Tusk was booed by some MEPs after he kept his response to lawmakers' criticism curt.

"I would very much like our two situations cooperate in the best possible way, so today I will refrain from any comments," he told MEPs.

"I hope that we will all take the responsibility for the new leadership to be balanced in every aspect," he said, adding that the EPP, the largest group in the EP, will support von der Leyen.

German minister presidency plan upsets MEPs

While EU leaders seem to converge around German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen as Commission president, the European Parliament is not happy with the emerging agreement on top jobs.

EU leaders nominate first female EU commission chief

An ally of Angela Merkel, the female Germany defence minister has been nominated by EU leaders for the commission top job. Ursula von der Leyen still needs to be approved by the EU Parliament, where she will meet some resistance.


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.


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.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

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