Enduring yet another marathon session with MEPs in the space of a week, von der Leyen focused on gender equality in her opening remarks to a packed Plenary.
“Exactly forty years ago the first President of the European Parliament, Simone Veil, was elected and put forward her vision of a more unified and just Europe. It is thanks to her and all the other European icons, that today I am able to put forward to you my vision of Europe.”
“And forty years later, it is with great pride that I am able to say that finally a woman is candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.”
After receiving a round of applause, von der Leyen went on to outline her vision for the European Commission she would spearhead for the next five years.
Largely focusing on the same issues which she addressed in her letters of concession to Renew Europe and the Socialists, von der Leyen’s 33-minute speech – which she again delivered in French, German and English – kicked off with a focus on climate change.
“Our most pressing challenge is keeping our planet healthy. This is the greatest responsibility and opportunity of our times. I want Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050 … A two-step approach is needed to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 by 50, if not 55 percent.”
Von der Leyen then pledged to put forward a Green Deal for Europe in her first 100 days in office - the first ever European Climate Law which will set the 2050 target into law.
"We need a Child Guarantee to help ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty and social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education"
In clear overtures to the Socialists, some of whom are understood to be against or undecided on von der Leyen’s candidacy, she addressed issues designed to appeal to the centre-left.
“We have to care for the most vulnerable: our children. We have to fight poverty. I know as a mother of seven that it makes a difference for their entire life if children have access to education, sports, music, healthy food and to a loving environment.”
“We need a Child Guarantee to help ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty and social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education.”
She went on to assert that every person that is working full time should earn a minimum wage, “that pays for a decent living” and that as well as ensuring “full gender equality” in her Commission, she will propose adding violence against women on the list of EU crimes defined in the Treaty.
“And the European Union should join the Istanbul Convention,” she added.
On rule of law, which was the focus of many questions from MEPs during last week’s group hearings, von der Leyen said in her speech, “there can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the Rule of Law. There never will be. I will ensure that we use our full and comprehensive toolbox at European level.”
“In addition, I fully support an EU-wide Rule of Law Mechanism. To be clear: the new instrument is not an alternative to the existing instruments, but an additional one.”
"There can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the Rule of Law. There never will be. I will ensure that we use our full and comprehensive toolbox at European level”
In the subsequent three and a half hours, a range of MEPs from across the political divide took the floor. At times vociferous, at times full of praise and at times bursting with pent-up frustration tinged with resignation, the range of comments ran the gamut of emotions.
Nevertheless, the broad consensus was generally that of reluctant acceptance from many of von der Leyen’s naysayers. How that will translate into votes will be revealed this evening.
The vote on von der Leyen’s nomination will be held by secret paper ballot at 6pm.