Commission enters office
We can be the shapers of a better global order, said new EC President Ursula von der LeyenMaria Koleva , Brussels
With a delay of a month and after a number of hindrances, the von der Leyen Commission, comprising 27 members, is taking office on 1st December. The next day, the EC President will deliver a speech at the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid. On Wednesday, MEPs finally greenlighted the new College by 461 votes in favour, 157 against and 89 abstentions.
However, some political observers warned that the executive will never again enjoy such a majority in the House, and the real hurdles will come precisely because of the fragmented Parliament. It will happen once the Commission begins to table its policy initiatives, they asserted.
It seems they are forgetting to take into account von der Leyen's ability to reach compromises and build bridges. Qualities she has firmly proved in recent months.
Presenting her College of Commissioners and their programme at the plenary in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen went over the engagements she already made before the lawmakers in the July session, when indeed she was approved as President-elect.
She outlined who will do what at the College and again pointed out her priority tasks in environmental protection and climate change, growth, inclusion, innovation and digital transformation, as well as the protection of democracy and European values, citizens' rights and the rule of law.
“The world needs our leadership more than ever, to keep engaging with the world as a responsible power. To be a force for peace and for positive change. We must show our partners at the United Nations that they can rely on us, as a champion of multilateralism,” von der Leyen underlined, reiterating that she will lead a geopolitical Commission.
“We must demonstrate to our friends in the Western Balkans that we share the same continent, we share the same history, we share the same culture - and we will share the same destiny too. Our door remains open,” she further said. The President of the new Commission also accented that countries from East to West, from South to North, need Europe to be a true partner, adding: “We can be the shapers of a better global order.”
The new College was propped up by the three mainstream parties - EPP, the political family of von der Leyen, S&D and Renew Europe. It was partly supported by the ECR.
The EPP members unambiguously confirmed the new European Commission. This Commission is unique and historic as it is led by a woman and consists of more women than any other Commission in the past, said Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right group. “With our strong EPP team in the College, the EPP has delivered on gender balance, where others speak about it in their Sunday speeches,” he noted.
S&D President Iratxe Garcia Perez, whose group made a significant contribution to the majority of the Commission's approval, said in a straight fashion: “We back the new Commission with a demanding, loyal and vigilant vote.”
“Our group has managed to maximise our leverage and to shape an agenda for change in the next five years,” the S&D leader also stated, adding that the group will work closely with the Commission “to make sure that together we accomplish the ecological transformation Europe needs, without leaving anyone behind”.
Renew Europe leader Dacian Ciolos warned the Commission that their vote in favour would not be a blank cheque. “We expect an honest partnership with the European Parliament, based on trust. Without trust between us, there will be no results. And without a clear road to results, Renew will not be on board.” The “too little, too late” syndrome must be eradicated once and for all, otherwise it will not be Mr Schinas and his portfolio, but the Americans or the Chinese who will decide on our way of life in the future, Renew Europe's chief stressed.
The Greens/EFA abstained on the vote of the new Commission, but Ska Keller, President of the group, explained that this voting behaviour is a sign of goodwill despite fundamental criticisms. We have clear reservations about some elected Commissioners, but we are “equally committed to constructive cooperation in order to make the European Union more ecological and social,” she stressed. Ursula von der Leyen must keep her election promises and make this Commission the Climate Commission, Ska Keller also urged.
GUE/NGL gave the new Commission thumbs down. Co-president of the group Martin Schirdewan voiced its concerns that the incoming Commission will take Europe down the wrong path. “In recent weeks and months, Ursula von der Leyen's Commission has promised all sorts to everyone, but there are many contradictions,” he emphasised. They talk about more investment but preserve the same old, destructive austerity, he said, adding: “By persisting with an austerity agenda, how are Member States supposed to invest?”