Lawmakers name their price for backing Von der Leyen for top job

Clay Curtis
July 13, 2019

The prolonged negotiations to secure the votes needed to confirm her appointment have highlighted the increased fragmentation of the European Parliament since the election.

Von der Leyen will have to rely on votes from the right-wing parties in the parliament, even though the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) are also split over the 60-year-old minister, who was grilled by MEPs earlier this week, but left most unimpressed.

German Defense Minister and candidate for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, shakes hands with new elected President of the European Parliament David Sassoli after their meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

She may still win the support of the full parliament, but rejection by the Greens leaves her relying more on representatives from Eastern European states.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit in January, Von der Leyen said the bloc should apply the same "guidelines" to China as it does to Russian Federation and must not "underestimate itself" in terms of the influence it can have on Beijing. "We don't know her", Bas Eickhout, a Green lawmaker from the Netherlands, told Reuters.

Her most hard meeting will be with the Greens on Tuesday afternoon.

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Referring to Germany's wartime Nazi past, von der Leyen said she was extremely sensitive to the guiding principles of Western rule of law and said there should be transparency across the bloc.

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There have been British calls for the backstop to be changed or time-limited, but other European Union states, particularly Ireland, insist it is essential - and von der Leyen was adamant in her support of it.

"I think it's a good deal, but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort this out", she told a British Liberal Democrat MEP in the European parliament, in her first public comments on Brexit.

Von der Leyen needs the backing of an absolute majority of 376 votes in the 751-strong chamber to be confirmed.

The liberals of Renew Europe are pushing for von der Leyen's approval - although they expect further commitment from her next week on the rule of law, transnational lists and getting the Danish liberal commissioner Margrethe Vestager a vice-president position in the commission. "We have an agreement - which hasn't been signed on both sides - and we have the backstop", she said, referring to a controversial provision in the deal negotiated by Mrs May to avoid extensive border controls on the Irish border after Brexit. But she needs more votes and some could come from the Socialists, the second largest grouping in the parliament.

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