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President of the Commission: Von der Leyen and her team before the first test


TIME ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

Brussels (AP) - Ursula von der Leyen has not done too much wrong in Brussels.

In the summer, the former German Defense Minister won her election as President of the European Commission in the European Parliament - albeit very close. Then she worked silently and presented in early September, a savvy staff package for their new commission. And yet, the President-elect is in a mess. As of Monday, the competent parliamentary committees grill their nominees, and things can go wrong for Leyen.


For two of their 26 nominated EU commissioners is probably already concluded before it has started. The Parliamentary Legal Committee confirmed that Hungary Laszlo Trocsanyi and Romanian Rovana Plumb face financial conflicts of interest that can not be dispelled: they are unsuitable for the job of the EU Commissioner. Parliament President David Sassoli still asked for clarification - but probably Trocsanyi and Plumb will not become EU Commissioners. At the hearings, further candidates could be screened out. MPs file reservations against five to seven more candidates. In one of them, Poland Janusz Wojciechowski, the anti-fraud agency Olaf found irregularities in travel bills, but only recommended repayment and no criminal action.


Parliament takes the candidates' examination very seriously - and faces it with grim determination and planning in line with the general plan. For three hours, MEPs defy every Commissioner-designate until 8 October. Afterwards they give each a testimony. "The hearings are an important moment in European democracy," says Green Sven Giegold. In the case of von Leyen's own nomination, the parliament was passed over, which still bumps many MPs bitterly. Social Democrats and Greens also remain suspicious of whether the Leyen red-green program really serious. At the hearings they want to use their leverage and nail the candidates to positions. Only when the plenary concludes the entire quorum can it start punctually on November 1st.


The so-called Visegrad states Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have significantly supported von der Leyen on their way to the top of the EU Commission. After her election in July, the right-wing parties PiS from Poland and Fidesz from Hungary bragged that they had helped to get the majority. Now the future president has accepted some controversial candidates from the eastern EU countries - and leaves it up to Parliament to stop them if necessary and fight the quarrels with the capitals. Von der Leyen needs the benevolence of the Visegrad countries to reach their big goals in terms of climate or migration. But it is also measured by whether it prevails against its sponsors, if necessary, especially on asylum and the rule of law. The Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó already let know what he thinks of the migration policy plans of the Leyens: not much.


So von der Leyen tries to make it all right somehow. This is shown by the dispute over the title of her designated Vice-President for the "Protection of the European way of life". The name says almost nothing. But that should also include migration, umgarnt those who think that Europe should absorb rather fewer than more refugees - and drives Social Democrats, Liberals, Greens and Left in the European Parliament on the barricades. The critics demand that either the title be changed or the jurisdiction. Otherwise you will not be able to support the new Commission, wrote the Socialist Group leader Iratxe García Pérez to von der Leyen. Their own party family EVP sees no problem. "I assume it stays that way," says CDU / CSU MP chief Daniel Caspary.


So the next few weeks will be a test of power - with Parliament and, indirectly, with the governments of the EU member states. For von der Leyen that's tricky. The entire five years in office will have to assemble majorities, otherwise they can not enforce anything. In parliament, with strong EU-critical borders, she has to court the middle to completely alienate Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens, without Left and Conservatives. In the circle of EU states, it has to balance the lines of conflict between North and South, West and East. And prove to the Europeans that the construct holds the European Union together and really makes progress.

Source: zeit

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