In an eleventh-hour approach to the Socialists and Renew Europe, both of whom sent a laundry list of demands to von der Leyen after last week’s hearings, the would-be Commission President gave further details on her “vision for Europe”, which includes beefed-up powers for Parliament.
Unlike the Greens and GUE/NGL, who both announced outright after last week’s hearings that they would not vote in favour of von der Leyen’s candidacy, the Socialists and Renew Europe stopped short of condemnation; instead using their respective positions as potential kingmakers as a bargaining chip to secure key demands.
In her letter to Renew Europe President, Dacian Cioloș, von der Leyen reiterates her pledge to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, but adds that not only does she want to reach the EU target for 2030 by reducing CO2 emissions by 50 percent, but also put forward “a comprehensive plan” to increase the EU target for 2030 towards 55 percent, “in a responsible way.”
She goes on to address other key concerns across several different policy areas, including promising to complete the Banking Union; putting forward legislation (in her first 100 days in office) for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence, as well as pledging that her Commission “will always propose that provisional application of trade agreements takes place only once the European Parliament has given its consent.”
On rule of law, on which von der Leyen received an in-depth grilling during her hearings with Parliament’s political groups last Wednesday, her letter to Renew Europe explains that “there can be no compromise when it comes to our core values.”
“I support an additional European Rule of Law mechanism. This should have an EU-wide scope and should include objective annual reporting,” the letter says, adding that she will also ensure a greater role for the European Parliament in the rule of law mechanism”.
‘PARLIAMENT’S BIGGEST ADVOCATE’
Most notably in her letter to renew Europe, von der Leyen outlines her commitment to “the House of the people” - the European Parliament.
“As Commission President, I will be the European Parliament’s biggest advocate. As the House of the people, it should have a stronger role in shaping and designing our future"
“As Commission President, I will be the European Parliament’s biggest advocate. As the House of the people, it should have a stronger role in shaping and designing our future. In a democracy like ours, this is a must.”
“I support a right of initiative for the European Parliament. When Parliament, acting by a majority of its members, adopts resolutions requesting the Commission to submit legislative proposals, I commit to responding with a legislative act, in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity and better law-making principles.”
In her separate letter to the Socialists, von der Leyen addresses many of the same issues, but with more of a left-leaning tone.
She pledges to set up a European Child Guarantee Scheme, to help ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion, has access to the most basic of rights. She also promises the establishment of a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in the EU has a fair minimum wage “that allows them a decent living in the country they work in.”
Von der Leyen also says that more should be done to prevent domestic violence, to protect victims and to punish offenders.
“I firmly believe the EU should join the Istanbul Convention on fighting domestic violence. I will propose to add violence against women on the list of EU crimes defined in the Treaty.”
'FRESH START' ON MIGRATION
On migration, von der Leyen says in her letter to the Socialists that “we need a new way of burden sharing. We need a fresh start.”
"We need to work towards full co-decision power for the European Parliament and away from unanimity for climate, energy, social and taxation policies. In the same vein, qualified majority should become the rule for external affairs"
She explains that Europe can only have strong external borders if enough support is given to the Member States who face the most pressure because of their geographical location. With this in mind, von der Leyen proposes a reinforced European border and coast guard agency, with a standing corps of 10,000 Frontex border guards by 2024.
As with her letter to Renew Europe, von der Leyen equally courts the Socialists in proposing more powers for Parliament.
“I will work with the European Parliament on our shared goal of a more democratic and efficient union. We need to work towards full co-decision power for the European Parliament and away from unanimity for climate, energy, social and taxation policies. In the same vein, qualified majority should become the rule for external affairs.”
With all cards now clearly on the table, all that remains is for the clock to tick down to Tuesday, which will see von der Leyen stand in front of Parliament in Strasbourg and outline her detailed political guidelines for the next Commission.
This will be followed later in the day by the make-or-break vote by MEPs. In order for von der Leyen’s nomination to be given the green light, Parliament needs to approve it by an absolute majority, which is half of the existing MEPs plus one.