New President EU Commission & Future Challenges


The European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission — the first woman to hold the EU’s top executive job.
Von der Leyen, from the center-right European People’s Party, served in the federal government of Germany from 2005 to 2019 as the close and longest-serving member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet. She will be the first German to lead the EU in more than a half-century, since Walter Hallstein served from 1958 to 1967.
On 2 July 2019, von der Leyen was proposed by the European Council as the candidate for the office of President of the European Commission and was elected by the European Parliament on 16 July.
Amid familiar problems populism, trade disputes, migration, budget deficits and others, the European Commission has voted for a new and first female President Ursula von der Leyen. Most European newspapers welcome Ursula von der Leyen’s election as European Commission president while pointing out a slew of tough challenges she now faces. It was not easy, and she knew it: her tenacity was rewarded, Italian centrist daily La Stampa. The big electors, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, sighed with relief. There was no plan B.
The paper says the former German defence minister faces difficult choices while the European project is being attacked from many sides, from nationalist populists inside to Donald Trump and a constellation of autocrats outside, with the wound of Brexit remaining open. For German business daily Handelsblatt the next few years will show whether our continent is willing and able to compete with the USA and China – economically, technologically and politically.
Earlier, the European Union braced a whole series of crises in 2018 including the paralyzing Brexit negotiations, the trade dispute with the United States, the growth of right-wing populist movements, and rows with Poland, Hungary and Romania about constitutional weakness.
In coming days and months, with the departure of the UK, the EU will shrink for the first time in its history. This will certainly weaken it, at least where foreign and security policy matters are concerned. Without Britain’s military might, the EU, too, will count for less in the world. Economically speaking, citizens in the bloc will cope without the British. The damage for the UK is likely to be far greater. The British government itself admitted that Brexit will have initial negative effects. The lower house of the British Parliament is completely deadlocked, meaning that there’s still a chance Brexit will be postponed, or possibly canceled altogether
The European elections at the end of May ended the centre-left and centre-right combined majority that has held sway over the legislature for 40 years. The greens, liberals and nationalists all gained ground. Not everyone is daunted by Europe’s fractured politics. The events of the past few weeks give us some idea of the forces and priorities that will shape policymaking over the next five years, for better or for worse for the business environment. To start with, the parliament has already proved as mercurial and unpredictable as many expected, even if Ms von der Leyen won in the end.
German centre-right politician Ursula von der Leyen has been confirmed as president of the European Commission. The institutional wrangling, an activity in which the EU excels, is over, at least for now. For European business, the vote by MEPs on Tuesday evening is a relief. It means the EU can get back to work on pressing issues, including ensuring Europe’s industrial survival at a time when it is badly squeezed between US protectionism and Chinese state capitalism. von der Leyen will spend the summer putting together a team of commissioners, fleshing out her policy programme and figuring out how she can square her priorities with those of national governments and the parliament.
To win over MEPs, Ms von der Leyen had to back a 50 if not 55 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, a carbon border adjustment tax and widening the EU’s emissions trading scheme to shipping and aviation. She also promised a green investment plan within her first 100 days. Many corporate leaders now see the need for much bolder action on climate change and are looking to policymakers to provide regulatory clarity, tax incentives to change consumer behaviour and more public investment in clean energy technology.
Ursula von der Leyen, set out her plans for the European Union in remarks to the European Parliament. Promising a Green Deal for Europe, more equal representation of women, and an extension of the Brexit timetable if needed, she won both applause and, at times, boos. Later today, she’ll face a vote of EU parliamentarians, who will decide whether to let her take the union’s top post.
‘Exactly 40 years ago, Simone Veil was elected as the first female president of the European Parliament and set out her vision for a fairer and more united Europe. It is thanks to her, and to all the other European icons, that I am presenting my vision of Europe to you today’ she said adding, and 40 years later, I can say with great pride that we finally have a female candidate for European Commission president. I am that candidate thanks to all the men and women who have broken down barriers and defied convention. I am that candidate thanks to all the men and women who built a Europe of peace, a united Europe, a Europe of values.
She said, demographic change, globalization of the world economy, rapid digitalization of our working environment, and, of course, climate change. None of these meta-developments is new: Science predicted them a long way back. What is new is that we, as citizens of Europe, irrespective of the country in which we live are feeling and experiencing their effects firsthand.
We are all feeling quite clearly the effects of climate change. Whether it is Irish pensioners that have to get to grips with online banking or Polish workers with 20 years’ experience having to undergo further training in order to avoid being laid off: We are all feeling the concrete effects of digitalization. Whether it is regions in Europe in which schools, hospitals, or companies have to close down: We are all feeling the concrete effects of demographic change’ she added.
In her bid for the European Union’s top job, she made a range of promises and announcements, many of which appealed tremendously to Green and socialist MEPs. But whether she will actually be able to deliver on those promises over the next five years will not depend on her political prowess alone. She will require majority support in the European Parliament, and above all the backing of the Council of the European Union, which is comprised of ministers from all of the EU’s 28 member states. When it comes to EU lawmaking, those two bodies are more or less equally powerful.
Von der Leyen wants to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions and formulate a climate law within the first 100 days of her tenure. She wants carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced by 50%, or even 55%, by 2030. Thus far, the bloc’s member states have struggled to agree on a concrete target. Some have proposed cutting emission by 40%, and the conservative European People’s Party group von der Leyen’s ardent supporters say their maximum cut is 45%. The Commission may suggest creating a new climate fund, and transforming the European Investment Bank (EIB) into a kind of “climate bank.” However, the EU member states themselves are the EIB’s shareholders and they would have agree to that kind of policy. So far, it unclear to what extent EU members will back von der Leyen’s environmental policies.
The EU is deeply divided over how to deal with migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to enter the bloc via the Mediterranean or the Balkan route. The current Commission has suggested ways of better managing this, yet for years, EU members have failed to reach an agreement on the matter. Italy, Poland, Hungary, Austria and other states strictly reject taking in refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. Some member states insist on binding redistribution quotas for refugees, though enforcing them has proven impossible.
Even rulings by the European Court of Justice have been ignored. When it comes to these issues, von der Leyen most likely has more backing from the European Parliament than individual EU member states. When she praised various ongoing sea rescue operations, von der Leyen earned thunderous applause from MEPs even though these operations are run by or originate from EU member states, not the EU itself. Von der Leyen’s wish to expand the bloc’s Frontex border agency to 10,000 agents by 2024 instead of 2027, meanwhile, looks extremely unlikely, as the member states have repeatedly rejected the move.
Designating who gets to be in charge of which portfolio will be a tricky puzzle, as von der Leyen admitted to media. She wants to strike a balance between eastern and western member states, as well as between large and small ones, to ensure each have a say in key matters. She hopes this will go some way in reuniting the bloc. So far, incidentally, eastern member states have not secured any top jobs.
Von der Leyen also plans to ensure full gender equality among her 28 commissioners. She would like member states to put forward two candidates for each post. In September and October they will be vetted by the European Parliament, which will ultimately vote on whether it approves of the new Commission. EU law, however, stipulates that no candidate may be rejected on the basis of his or her gender.
Von der Leyen announced that Poland and Hungary will be vigorously investigated for breaching the rule of law. She also wants to introduce a new mechanism for punishing these kinds of violations. By doing so, she is taking a clear stand against the bloc’s right-wing populists. Currently, however, the Council of the European Union is tasked with determining how to proceed with regard to Poland. The Commission has played its part.
Meanwhile, the investigation against Hungary was not initiated by the Commission, but by the European Parliament. Here, too, the Council must now act. Poland’s ruling national-conservative PiS party now claims von der Leyen only secured the bloc’s top job thanks to its support, which is why Polish Prime Minster Mateusz Morawiecki said he now expects her to go easy on his country.

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