Ursula von der Leyen narrowly elected President of the European Commission - About News

The German conservative was elected by a narrow majority on Tuesday by the European Parliament. She succeeds Jean-Claude Juncker and becomes the first woman to assume the presidency of the European Commission.


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Ursula von der Leyen

Special envoy to Strasbourg

The atmosphere was cold and the applause was very polite Tuesday night in the Parliament of Strasbourg, when the results of the ballot for the election to the presidency of the European Commission fell.

The German Ursula von der Leyen is indeed the new head of the European executive, the very first woman at the head of this institution. But his victory is so short that it sounds like a bitter failure for the heads of state and government who pushed his candidacy despite warnings from the leaders of several parliamentary groups, including the German Manfred Weber, removed from the race for the presidency of the Commission. Ursula von der Leyen was to win an absolute majority of at least 374 votes. In the end, it gets only 383 votes for, 327 votes against, while 22 MEPs abstained. For the record, five years ago, his predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker was doing much better, with 422 votes for and 250 against. Ursula von der Leyen, visibly destabilized by her score, said she was "honored" and "moved". In her first statement after her election, she called on all MEPs to work together "constructively".

It is on this victory without breath that ended Tuesday the marathon of the candidate of the Twenty-eight. The German Defense Minister, who knew full well that nothing was being done for her, had put all the chances on her side in this speech she made in the early morning and tweaked until the last moment. Thirty-three minutes in total to cure and the bottom and the form, taking care to avoid the catalog effect, while speaking sometimes French, sometimes German, sometimes English. And giving mostly a little of herself.


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Ursula von der Leyen

The form first. Much more than she had done in the past two weeks, Ursula von der Leyen played the woman card and, beyond that, the Franco-German symbol. "Exactly forty years ago, the first President of the European Parliament, Simone Veil, was elected and presented her vision of a more united and just Europe (...) And forty years later, it is with great pride that I can say: it is finally a woman who is the candidate for the presidency of the European Commission, "she began.

Throughout this speech, she will take care to deliver some personal notes, recalling that she grew up in Brussels, that she felt European before understanding later that she was also "German and Low Saxon". He also spoke about his seven children and his father, former chief of staff of a European commissioner. He said: "Europe is like an old couple. Love is not stronger than in the first day, but it is deeper. Obviously, those pretty words pleased.


Bar on the left

On the merits, the candidate of the Twenty-Eight, from the European right, clearly set the bar on the left. How could it be otherwise? Von der Leyen knew he was supported by the EPP. But it had to try to overcome the reluctance of the Social Democrats (153 seats) and bring back to reason the Greens (74), who had made it clear last week that they would not vote for her. On the agenda, therefore, the fight against global warming with carbon neutrality by 2050 and a level at "50% or even 55% in 2030", an investment plan for a sustainable Europe to inject some 1,000 billion euros, a "fund for a just transition" to help the Eastern countries to pass the course. Doing nothing, pretending to ignore that it is not the Commission but the Council that usually has the last word on a number of issues, Ursula von der Leyen has promised a minimum wage for anyone working at full-time, "a European system of reinsurance of unemployment benefits (...) in case of external shocks", "a youth guarantee" and "a guarantee for childhood" so that any child at risk of poverty "has access to the most elementary ".




Macronist paw

She also called for a qualified majority on foreign policy decisions and pledged "a new pact on migration and asylum". Suffice to say that there is in the proposals of von der Leyen a real macronist paw. With the exception, however, of the subject of Brexit, for which she still pleaded for a postponement. Objective: to ensure the votes of the Labor remainers and try, in doing so, to tip over more social democrats. Were these proposals sufficient to move the lines? Clearly, it was Nigel Farage's view that criticized "an updated version of communism". The Greens, however, camped on their refusal. And, all afternoon, the uncertainty remained strong. The minister in charge of European affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, refused to make any prognosis, on the grounds that secret ballots sometimes hold surprises.

The Social Democrats finally called for Ursula von der Leyen to vote, but several delegations, representing about 50 seats, said they would not follow the instructions. Especially the French, the Belgians and especially the irreducible Germans of the SPD. Matteo Salvini's League announced its refusal to support the EPP candidate when the Polish PiS, under pressure from Brussels, announced shortly before the vote that her 26 MEPs would vote for her. And the EPP MEPs in all this? They were not at the party on Tuesday afternoon, during their group meeting. "It grumbles on the general substance of the speech. Eastern countries but also many CSUs do not agree with the minimum wage, transnational lists and regret that there has been so little regal and no common agricultural policy, "confided one of them. Ursula von der Leyen probably did not fill the voices of her own political family ... In the end, she owes her election to the M5S and the late and fiercely negotiated PiS support.

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