Blog AnalysisEU Institutions

Ursula von der Leyen's Way of the Cross ends

(B2) The delivery was painful. But this time should be the right one. Barring a last-minute incident, new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her 26 other commissioners are set to be inducted by the European Parliament in a solemn vote on Wednesday.

Ursula von der Leyen will know this Wednesday 27 in Parliament if she will be the first woman to lead the European executive. Here in orange for the day of violence against women in front of the Berlaymont, headquarters of the European Commission (credit: CE)

The new Commission will then be able to take office on 1 December. Or just a month behind the normal tempo. " It's not abnormal “, indicates a European diplomat accustomed to the Brussels game. A journey of initiation in a way.

The initiatory journey

However, nothing was spared Ursula during her first months in Brussels. First of all, his appointment is not the first choice of MEPs. His Bavarian compatriot, Manfred Weber, head of the list of the European People's Party, like Frans Timmermans, his Social Democratic alter ego, already saw themselves occupying the seat of Jean-Claude Juncker. But the Heads of State and Government, Macron in the lead, Merkel in support, decide otherwise (The new European top chef: an ambitious choice and a victory for the French team ). The result was immediate. The parliamentarians are sulking... On July 16, when it comes to validating Merkel's protege as President of the Commission, they only give her nine votes more than the (absolute) majority required. Barely. Very just. Especially since this support was acquired thanks to a few Polish MEPs from the PiS, the Polish conservative party, which has little odor of sanctity in Brussels. (Read : Ursula von der Leyen elected President of the European Commission 2019-2024. Barely)




Cascading incident during auditions

The hell of the German then continues with the constitution of the college. She struggles to get some names, especially to get the number of women she wants (read: The von der Leyen Commission: joint, balanced, experienced). Once this work is done, the parliamentary test of fire begins: the hearings of the candidates chosen to be commissioners. MEPs are having a field day. In the game of turning everything upside down, three commissioners go by the wayside: the Hungarian László Trócsányi, the Romanian Rovana Plumb and, above all, the French Sylvie Goulard. A centerpiece of the future Commission which should occupy the very prominent portfolio of Commissioner for the Internal Market (The seven reasons for Sylvie Goulard's failure). We must resume the nomination procedure and find three replacements. The path remains paved with pitfalls

The Romanian imbroglio

First of all, the deal changed in Bucharest with the overthrow of the social-democratic Romanian government. Local political leaders are slow to propose a new Romanian commissioner. Outgoing Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă (Social Democrat) and her successor Ludovic Orban (PNL, Christian Democrat) are fighting over the right to appoint a commissioner. Finally the latter wins. But the president still has to fight hard to try to approach the promised parity. Budapest and Paris have decided to send a man and do not budge. Bucharest agrees to send a woman.

The tangent of Brexit

Another problem intervenes, the Brexit scheduled for October 30 returns by the tangent. It is postponed for three months (A new agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom on Brexit. The texts). The United Kingdom must therefore appoint a commissioner. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in the middle of the electoral campaign, refuses to do so. New puzzle. Eurocrats, never short of ideas, find the trick. The Commission will launch an infringement procedure against the United Kingdom. Even if it does not succeed until long after. History to cover to sit at 27 where it would take 28 people around the oval table of the European executive. Issue resolved.

The second set of auditions without breakage

The hearings of the last three commissioners finally took place without a hitch in mid-November. The French Thierry Breton, although tickled on his past as a business leader, passes the ramp hands down (Successful bet for Thierry Breton's Grand Oral? My compass will be the European general interest). Romanian Adina-Ioana Valean do the same. Hungarian Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi is a bit stuck (Hungarian Olivér Várhelyi lacks a clear vision. He does not convince the European Parliament). But, after a remedial writing, he ends up getting the famous sesame. The S&D (Social Democrat) group, which had not approved his hearing, changed his mind and voted in his favour.

Real Politik has spoken...

The first woman to occupy the post of president of the European executive has meanwhile made a few concessions to the Socials and Democrats, just to appease them. She agrees to change the name of the portfolio of the Greek commissioner in charge of " protection of the European way of life », which loses its qualification of 'protection'. A mark of fortress Europe deemed inappropriate by several political groups. It grants some concessions to the social-democratic commissioners: the Luxembourgish Nicolas Schmit obtains social rights in addition to Employment, while the Italian Paolo Gentiloni (Economy) is responsible for ensuring that the objectives of sustainable development are well integrated in economic policies. The Social Democrats claim victory. Ursula is jubilant...inwardly. The German has earned her stripes at European level, displaying unfailing resilience. A quality acquired during his almost six years at the head of the Bundeswehr.

A useful delay

This delay will not have been entirely useless. It was used to stabilize and consolidate the majority in the European Parliament. Von der Leyen thus visited the main political groups, to convince them. While behind the scenes, his mentors - Emmanuel Macron like Angela Merkel - discreetly conveyed the message to their counterparts heads of government and party leaders: on November 27, the new president must not miss a single vote. Europe does not need one more crisis today.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

extended and completed version of an article published Tuesday morning in Sud-Ouest

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “Ursula von der Leyen's Way of the Cross ends"

Comments closed.