The heavy hitters of the new EU Commission
Ursula Von Der Leyen walked into the European scene in early July 2019 as she was proposed by the European Council as their candidate for the role of president of the Commission.
She secured parliamentary approval to become the next President of the Commission on July 18th 2019, on an monumental plan. She envisions making Europe the first climate neutral continent in the next three decades. She promised to defend the rule of law, stating she will update the current legal structure surrounding migration. The biggest change ahead of her is that of helping the EU parliament propose new legislation, a privilege that until now has been reserved for the Commission. Von Der Leyenn will not only be the first German president of the EU Commission since it’s first president, Walter Hallstein; but will be the first woman ever to take the reins of the Commission in her own hands.
Von Der Leyen also supports the ratification of the almost finalized European Union–Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, which forms one of the world’s largest free trade areas. The agreement links the two common markets of Europe and South America. However, fears have been voiced as it would lead to increased deforestation due to expanding South American markets.
She entered the political scene in in the early 2000s, and received her first position in the German federal cabinet as a Minister of Affairs and Youth in 2005, a position she held until 2009. Slowly climbing the ranks of the German center right party, the CDU, she was elected member of the executive board in 2014. By 2019 she had become the longest serving member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet. It was this conservative support along with that of socialist and liberal lawmakers, convinced by her vision for the EU, that made her a strong candidate for the presidency.
Tuesday, Von Der Leyen presented her slate of nominees for the next European Commission. She seeks a new executive class that will be the “guardian of multilateralism.” Among them are the Danish Margrethe Vestager and Dutch Frans Timmermans. Vestager, although seeking to enter the previous Junker Commission on the environmental portfolio, demonstrated some outstanding work with her designated Competition dossier. Her work managing commercial and economic competition saw her taking on some of the largest firms active in the continent. In 2016, following a two-year investigation, Apple was accused of having received illegal tax benefits from Ireland and requested to pay a fine 13€billion, the largest tax fine in history. Her record in attacking market and competition abuses received criticism from US president Trump who declared “She hates the United States”. Vestager was proposed again in 2019 by the Danish Prime Minister for First Vice President of the Commission, in charge of the environment portfolio, Von Der Leyen deemed it fit keep Timmermans at that post.
Frans Timmermans as Executive First-Vice President of the EU Commission will be in charge of the Green New Deal. The Deal envisions boosting the the 2030 target of reduced emissions from 40% to at least 50%. In her mission letter to Timmermans Von Der Leyen appoints him the goal of proposing the “first European Climate Law” in the first 100 days of the Commissions existence. To do this the Dutchman must rely on the unanimous support of member states a task that has been proven hard in the past given the objections of Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
Ursula Von Der Leyen Tuesday proposed a team-building retreat for her and her new commissioners to a hotel outside Brussels. Irrespective of the strong team she has built around her, the new president takes helm at a ship in troubled waters, as the crisis waves of Brexit keep crashing against her hull and America retreats from the rigging. Will she be able to launch the continent into the right trajectory given the current turmoil? Only time will tell.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com – In the cover picture: Ursula Von Der Leyen surrounded by the new commissioners at a retreat in a seminar in Genval, Belgium. Credit: Oliver Hoslet, Shutterstock.