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20th Sep 2020

EU parliament to vote on von der Leyen next week

  • Ursula von der Leyen has so far wooed only a few MEPs to her side (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament's leadership on Thursday (11 July) announced the assembly will vote on Ursula von der Leyen's nomination to lead the EU Commission next Tuesday (16 July).

The German defence minister will make a speech to MEPs in the morning, then lawmakers will debate her nomination until midday. The vote will take place in the evening, at 6pm in Strasbourg.

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The announcement confirms the original plans, even though rumours had been circulating in Brussels over pushing back the vote to give von der Leyen more time to lobby MEPs.

However, with almost all of the groups split over her candidacy, the German conservative cannot say with certainty that she has the parliament's backing.

She needs at least 376 votes in the 751-member assembly.

The largest, centre-right group, the European People's Party, supports her with its 182 MEPs.

But there is a sizeable opposition to her from the second largest, the 153-strong Socialists & Democrats, where the German MEPs are particularly unhappy about her candidacy, and with EU leaders disregarding the parliament's lead candidate process.

On Tuesday (9 July), the German delegation's head, Jens Geier sent a letter to fellow Socialist & Democrats MEPs, seen by EUobserver, arguing that she had been an "ineffective" defence minister.

He also pointed out that there is an ongoing parliamentary hearing in Germany over allegations that her office violated public procurement rules.

Geier also highlighted other scandals and pointed out that von der Leyen lost support on her Christian Democratic party in Germany, while she is also promoted by Hungary's illiberal prime minister Viktor Orban.

Achim Post, the German delegation's vice-chair also called on fellow MEPs to reject von der Leyen.

"The European parliamentarians should now decide independently within their parliamentary mandate [on the commission top job]," he said in a statement, pointing out that leaders did not follow the Spitzenkandidat principle.

The liberals of Renew Europe are pushing for von der Leyen's approval - although they expect further commitment from her next week on the rule of law, transnational lists and getting the Danish liberal commissioner Margrethe Vestager a vice-president position in the commission.

The Greens and the far left have said they will vote against her.

"Everything is split here," said one parliament source.

Von der Leyen will have to rely on votes from the right-wing parties in the parliament, even though the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) are also split over the 60-year-old minister, who was grilled by MEPs earlier this week, but left most unimpressed.

"It was a disastrous showing, it was clear she is isn't going for the widest possible majority," another parliament source commented.

MEPs will cast their ballots next week in a secret vote, meaning more MEPs could feel inclined to break party political lines, and reject von der Leyen.

She is still expected to get the majority in parliament. If MEPs vote her down, EU leaders will have one month to nominate someone else.

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.

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.

Opinion

Weber: Six proposals in wake of Spitzenkandidat process

I will not lament the decision-making process that resulted in a package deal on the new leadership in Europe. I respect this result, which was in accordance with the treaties and therefore not undemocratic, albeit unsatisfactory.

Von der Leyen's EU vote far from sure

Unhappy socialist and liberal MEPs could upset German's bid to be next EU commission chief, making an even worse mess in the top jobs system.

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