By Nikolas Spanoudakis

Ursula von der what? If this is your reaction, don’t worry. You are not the only one. Before writing this article I asked several friends if they had heard about Ursula von der Leyen (hereafter Ursula vdL) and the results were rather disappointing. Only a few of them knew that Ursula vdL is the president elect of the European Commision. Why should you bother then? Well, her role in European politics will be central as the Commision is in charge of proposing new legislation and of keeping track of the implementation of existing legislations. Moreover, as leader of the Commision she will have the responsibility to safeguard the treaties of the European Union. But how did she get elected for this important job and what is her agenda? To answer this question I will try to put it into perspective but I invite you to do you own research too.

Along with the European elections last May, the parties present at the European Parliament (EP) ran their campaigns with their lead candidates. The lead candidates were potential presidents of the European Commision and one of them would become the president elect as long as his/her party managed to get a working majority in the EP. The concept of the lead candidate was introduced in order to increase the legitimacy of the president elect of the European Commision. Hence, the European voters would have had the chance to vote indirectly for the new president of the European Commision by voting for a national party which belongs to his/her political family. At this point it needs to be said that the leading candidate process is not binding for the European Council and this is an important point as the president elect must be nominated by the European Council and then approved by the EC. 

To make a long story short, the European leaders rejected all the leading candidates for different reasons but managed to reach consensus at the face of Ursula vdL. They had some good reasons for it: she comes from a strong country (Germany), she has had a long career as a minister in all four governments led by chancellor Merkel. She is also known to be a hard worker, going so far as to have a private sleeping room in the ministries in order to be closer and more focused on her job. Thus, Ursula vdL appeared in the scene like a bolt out of the blue and sought to get the approval of the EP. The EP approved her with a narrow majority which left a question behind: is she going to maintain this feeble majority for the next 5 years? While nobody can answer this question, it is interesting to mention some of the promises she made to gain the approval of the members of the EP.

Ursula vdL is aware that European citizens asked the EU to tackle climate change. Therefore she promised a “Green deal” and a new climate law which would serve as a means to achieve a climate neutral Europe by 2050. Furthermore, she expressed her intention to push for fair taxation of big corporations as the absence of it leaves space for significant tax evasion. She also promised the introduction of a European unemployment reinsurance scheme and to triple the budget for Erasmus related projects/mobility which means multiple educational opportunities. Her final important promise is that she will propose a pact for immigration legislation which will try to manage the migratory flows towards Europe.

Is she going to deliver on her promises? This is hard to tell. However, as these lines are written, Ursula vdL’s biggest concern is to get her commissioners-designate approved by the parliament. If confirmed, the new commission will be installed by the 1st of november 2019 and will be in charge for the next 5 years. Ursula vdL will get her chance to prove that she deserved her job although she appeared like a bolt out of the blue. Let’s hope she will be successful. It will be for our common good!

Cover photo: European Parliament

Nikolas Spanoudakis graduated from a master in chemistry for renewable energy and ever since sustainability is a key aspect of his life. But quite recently he realised that he has to fight for another important element in his life: the European Union. Thus, he decided to become a little champion of the EU. The result is doubtful but he is sure that the cause is good. Let’s see what happens!

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