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Von der Leyen Seeks to Secure EU Top Job at Parliament

Von der Leyen Seeks to Secure EU Top Job at Parliament

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 12:42 PM

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Parliament started voting Tuesday whether to confirm Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president after the outgoing German defense minister set out her political objectives on a greener, gender-equal Europe where the rule of law continues to hold sway.

Von der Leyen, a Christian Democrat in the European People's Party, is seeking to become the first woman to hold perhaps the most important post in the 28-nation European Union by gathering the requisite 374 votes out of 747.

The secret ballot had all legislators at the plenary in Strasbourg, France, mark their vote on paper and bring it forward for counting, a process that could take up to two hours.

Von der Leyen was a last-minute candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker with EU leaders agreeing as part of a package of top jobs that were decided on early this month.

Under the package, the free-market liberal Renew Europe group got Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel as European Council president and the Socialists won the top parliament job. France's Christine Lagarde was put forward as head of the European Central Bank.

Von der Leyen told lawmakers in Strasbourg on Tuesday that the gender element will be essential if she is elected European Commission president overseeing a team of 28 commissioners.

"I will ensure full gender equality in my College of Commissioners. If member states do not propose enough female commissioners, I will not hesitate to ask for new names," she said.

Pointing out that since its inception in 1958, less than 20% of commissioners had been women, she said: "We represent half of our population. We want our fair share."

If the parliament rejects her candidature, the whole package of political appointments could fall apart like a house of cards and throw the EU into a constitutional crisis.

The parliamentarians haven't so much objected to von der Leyen personally as voiced their anger that they were sidelined in the appointment process. Their candidates for the commission post, arguably the most important of all the jobs, were all rejected by the EU leaders.

Officials in the von der Leyen camp acknowledge that the vote will be a cliffhanger but say that she will scrape by. She should get the majority of votes from her EPP Christian Democrats, the S&D socialists and the RE liberals. They were part of a grand coalition sharing out the top jobs.

However, the Greens and German socialists have said they will reject her.

"We don't want a constitutional crisis," said S&D leader Iratxe García Pérez, indicating her group would lean toward supporting her.

During her address to the parliament, von der Leyen set out her political lines for the next few years and immediately addressed what she sees as the biggest challenge: climate change.

"I want Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050," she said, adding she would work out "a green deal for Europe in the first 100 days" of her office. It would include rules to improve on the current goal of reducing emissions by 40% by 2030.

"It will need investment on a major scale," and funds would be available for nations, mainly in eastern Europe, still depending on polluting fossil fuels, she said.

She said that she would set up a climate division within the European Investment Bank to "unlock 1 trillion euros of investment over the next decade."

Despite the need for votes to get the absolute majority, she did insist that her European Commission would continue to be at least as tough as now on countries like Poland and Hungary, which have been accused of disrespecting Western democratic values when it comes to the rule of law.

"There can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the rule of law. There never will be. I will ensure that we use our full and comprehensive toolbox at European level," she said.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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The European Parliament started voting Tuesday whether to confirm Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president after the outgoing German defense minister set out her political objectives on a greener, gender-equal Europe where the rule of law continues to hold...
EU,Europe,Top Jobs
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2019-42-16
Tuesday, 16 July 2019 12:42 PM
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