Trade

European Parliament confirms von der Leyen Commission

STRASBOURG — The Ursula von der Leyen Commission is ready to roll.

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted to approve von der Leyen, the first woman to serve in the EUs top executive post, and her team of 15 men and 11 women — the closest the EU has ever come to a gender-balanced College of Commissioners. They take office this Sunday, December 1.

The new Commission was approved with 461 votes in favor, 157 against and 89 abstentions. The new Commission will take over a month later than planned, after the Parliament rejected the original nominees from France, Hungary and Romania.

In a plenary debate prior to the vote, von der Leyen reiterated her main policy priorities, including an ambitious plan to fight climate change with a European Green Deal, an aggressive focus on digitalization and tech issues, and fresh drives to strengthen EU cooperation on economic and financial policies, and to step up foreign policy initiatives.

“Climate change is about all of us,” von der Leyen said, in a line that was emblematic of the aspirations and resolve she expressed throughout her speech. “We have the duty to act and the power to lead.”

The Parliament voted to install the Commission without a British representative after the U.K. government refused to send a nominee, citing Brexit and a general practice of not making international appointments during a general election campaign.

The absence of a British commissioner has raised the possibility that some Commission decisions could face legal challenges. But EU lawyers have expressed confidence that they have taken all necessary steps to avoid such challenges succeeding, including by initiating a disciplinary procedure against the U.K. for violating EU law.

Many of the abstentions on Wednesday were from the Greens group, which pointedly declared it would not support the new Commission or align with mainstream parties, and intended to continue functioning as an insurgent force despite the new executives focus on climate change.

In her opening speech asking the Parliament to approve her Commission, von der Leyen noted that it was the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and quoted the Czech statesman Václav Havel, saying: “Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”

“I choose this quote because over the next five years, our Union will embark together on a transformation, which will touch every part of our society and economy,” von der Leyen told the Parliament. “And we will do it because it is the right thing to do. Not because it will be easy.”

She thanked outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker, but also said that his Commission had often been forced into a defensive position of emergency response.

“In the last years, we had to focus on the here-and-now, managing crisis after emergency, fighting to keep our unity and solidarity intact,” she said, noting that the EU had often been at its best when pushing bold initiatives such as the creation of the euro, the common currency.

Von der Leyen insisted that the EU could be a bulwark of stability in an increasingly turbulent era.

“This is an unsettled world, where too many powersRead More – Source