Published: Sat, July 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

EU Commission nominee hopes Britain would stay, open to Balkans

EU Commission nominee hopes Britain would stay, open to Balkans

Ursula von der Leyen met on 8 July with Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, the co-chairs of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, as she tries to secure wider support in the European Parliament ahead of next week's vote on her Commission president candidacy by talking with senior MEPs.

The latter comment was made in reference to the controversial Irish backstop, which to date the Europeans say they will not renegotiate, but which the United Kingdom fears could either lock it in regulatory alignment with the EU permanently - preventing the United Kingdom making future independent trade deals - or threaten the union if Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union whilst Great Britain diverges after the implementation period.

Like Juncker, von der Leyen is from the Christian Democrat European People's Party. "Ms von der Leyen is simply not a Commission president that the Green group can support".

Von der Leyen was "evasive on all the answers". She also stressed that the focus of her attention will be on promoting the rule of law, digitalization, competitiveness and the fight against climate change. "We absolutely know how crucial this non-existing of a border is for you, and therefore having the backstop in the Brexit deal is", said von der Leyen, referring to the "backstop" agreement aiming to protect the open Irish border, which a future British prime minister is liable to try to change. And for that we will have to be more ambitious with our climate goals for 2030.

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.

While she is expected to be backed by the major political groups in the European Parliament, there has been stinging criticism of the way she was put forward as a candidate.

But she needs more votes and some could come from the Socialists, which is the second-largest grouping in the parliament.

A broad coalition of European Union legislators who were elected in May had wanted one of the lead candidates of the respective parliament groupings to take arguably the most important job at the Commission, which proposes and implements policy across the EU.

"We insist that the voters deserve a democratic and transparent process when it comes to the choice of Commission president".

What exactly did she say about Brexit?

Ms von der Leyen was branded "disappointing" and accused of "ignoring the climate emergency" after making her pitch to the 74 Green MEPs in the European Parliament. With some socialists fiercely opposing her election, the support of Green MEPs was considered key for her to reach the absolute majority she needs to be elected.

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