“Long live Europe! Vive l’Europe! Lang lebe Europa!” – the former German Defence Minister finished her application speech in the European Parliament. She received strong applause from most of the members on the left side of the EPP. Words that met with the approval of the majority of parliamentarians. During her speech, Von der Leyen made it unmistakably clear to AfD MEP Jörg Meuthen that she would by no means rely on the voices of the right-wing populists. She did not even want to receive them. In the end it became very close. With only nine votes above the required majority, she was elected President of the Commission. It seems that the right-wing populists from Hungary and Poland gave her the decisive votes. But how does the new head of the EU position herself on the central issues of these days and what prospects do her ambitions have?
Timmermanns Plan for the Rule of Law
Von der Leyen wants to support her Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans in his campaign against attacks on the rule of law. The Dutch Social Democrat was not chosen as the leading candidate only because of the intervention of the Eastern European states. The reason for this was also the fact that Timmermans, as the first vice-president of the EU Commission, had to pay attention to the rule of law in the EU and promptly initiated proceedings against Poland and Hungary. Von der Leyen wants to implement an “annual review mechanism” with regard to the rule of law in the EU member states already prepared by Timmermans. However, it is unlikely that it will be possible to implement the reduction in subsidies it is striving for as a measure against violations of the rule of law. This plan would have to be confirmed unanimously by the Council, which would hardly be in the interest of some Eastern European heads of state.
Old strucutures in asylum policy
Von der Leyens’ demands and plans with regard to asylum and migration policy can be summarised relatively briefly and succinctly in spite of a major address: More from the old. The causes of flight should be eliminated, smuggling should be combated and the external borders strengthened. In addition, it still calls for a Dublin reform and a better framework for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. However, it is skillful in holding back on details. Its most concrete approach is probably to increase the number of Frontex border guards to 10,000. This project should be implemented before 2027. Von der Leyen wants to make it by 2024.
The new Commission President promised that Europe would become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. In the first 100 days of her mandate, she wants to propose a “green deal” for Europe. emissions will be taxed more heavily under her leadership, thus exerting greater pressure on industry. Climate neutrality is not an unrealistic goal. Already at the EU summit at the end of June there were attempts to push through a voluntary commitment. If this failed at the time due to the veto of some Eastern European states, a compromise could soon be negotiated with these countries. Compensation payments for the reduction of coal-fired power are demanded. Von der Leyen is prepared here to accommodate the states affected.
Unemployment reinsurance despite harsh criticism
Ursula Von der Leyen is clearly in favour of European unemployment reinsurance. Against the sufficiently well-known position of her party, the CDU, she wants to open a fund, which should be filled in good times. In cases of crisis through no fault of her own, the aim is to relieve the burden on national unemployment systems through loans. Critics fear that such a project could result in immense transfer payments. Mrs von der Leyen still has a lot of convincing to do here, also in her own circles.
The vision of a bank union
Mrs Von der Leyen did not mention the protection of creditors by states of the European Union in her speech. Quite deliberately. The German Federal Government fears that German banks will be too often asked to pay through a deposit guarantee scheme to help banks in southern European countries get back on their feet. Due to the many bad loans in the balance sheets of such countries, the Federal Government will not be divesting itself of this course in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, Ursula von der Leyen’s work programme includes the deposit guarantee system. Time will show how far they can go with their ambitions.
Born 1981 in Strasbourg, is a freelance journalist for various online media throughout Europe, focusing on finance, real estate and politics. He gathered his professional expertise as a consultant for global players and medium-sized companies. Fournier studied economics and german in Paris and Dresden. He currently lives in Saarland and has been a member of the Euro Leaders team since the beginning of 2019.