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23rd Jan 2022

Von der Leyen reaches out to left and liberal MEPs

  • The German candidate needs the votes of at least 374 of the 747 MEPs in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday to scrape through (Photo: European Parliament)

European Commission presidential candidate Ursula von der Leyen has pledged a "fresh start" on migration and new powers for the European Parliament (EP) in her bid.

She also promised electoral reform and stricter green targets in order to attract socialist and liberal votes.

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That was "a snapshot of the ideas that I hope we will bring to life together" she wrote in a letter to the centre-left Socialist & Democrats (S&D) and the liberal Renew Europe groups in the EP on Monday (15 July).

"We need a new way of burden-sharing [on migration]. We need a fresh start," her letter, seen by EUobserver, said.

She pledged to "relaunch" EU asylum law reforms in the name of a "new pact" on how to relieve pressure on frontline countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain.

She also wanted a "standing corps of 10,000 Frontex border guards" in place by 2024, referring to the EU border control agency in Warsaw, in order to have "strong external borders".

Her letter, which comes on the eve of an EP vote on her nomination on Tuesday, also proposed new powers for parliament.

"I support a right of initiative for the European parliament," von der Leyen said.

That meant EP resolutions could in future force her commissions to respond with legislative acts, she noted.

The change, as well as other reforms, including the creation of transnational lists in EU elections by 2024, could be put in place by a grand Conference on the Future of Europe next summer, she said.

Von der Leyen needs at least 374 out of 747 votes in order to secure EP support to take over the EU commission presidency.

She is counting on the centre-right and liberal groups as well as most of the socialists to get her through.

But the liberals have made demands on EU electoral reform amid threats that up to 20 of them could abstain.

The left is divided and the Greens have so far said that they would not support the German defence minister's bid.

Tuesday's letter also pledged several ideas cherished by the S&D, including a minimum wage, tougher anti-discrimination laws, and "a more growth friendly fiscal stance in the euro area while safeguarding fiscal responsibility".

Von der Leyen told the Greens that she wanted to make Europe a "climate-neutral continent by 2050".

She spoke of 55 percent carbon cuts by 2030 and funding from a special EU "climate bank".

She might still need the support of the anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group if her overtures to the left and Greens do not work.

But her letter risked upsetting the ECR by saying she would play hardball on rule of law, despite the fact one of its main delegations, the Polish one, is under an EU sanctions procedure for stepping out of line.

I would "make rule of law an integral part of the multi-annual financial framework" von der Leyen said, referring to potential cuts in EU aid to miscreant countries such as Poland or Hungary in the bloc's next seven-year budget.

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