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LQD: Von der Leyen confirmed as new Commission president

by Bernard Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 06:28:37 PM EST

Von der Leyen confirmed as new Commission president by paper-thin majority - Euractiv

The European Parliament confirmed on Tuesday (16 July) Ursula von der Leyen by a paper-thin majority as the new European Commission president, giving her the reins of the EU executive for the next five years.

The German defence minister - a surprise candidate from the EPP, picked by the member states on 21 June - managed to convince a majority of Socialists and liberals in the Parliament with promises of reforms and climate action. She won 383 votes, compared to the minimum of 374 votes necessary, in a secret paper ballot - only nine more than the required minimum.

The votes against were 327 with 22 abstentions or blank vote.

In comparison, five years ago Jean-Claude Juncker was elected with 422 votes. The difference, however, is at that time, there were no doubts that the former prime minister of Luxembourg would get the top EU job. In the case of von der Leyen, a less known figure, who moreover was not even a Spitzenkandidat, uncertainty prevailed in the few weeks before the vote.

More importantly, it appears that the three mainstream groups, EPP, S&D and RE, voted predominantly in favour of the nominee proposed by EU heads of state and government,  forging a majority which would be much needed in the years to come.

Other coverage from Deutsche Welle and the Grauniad.

Secret ballot, so no detail on how many in the EPP, S&D and RE voted for or against her.

Also of possible significance:

Exclusive: Martin Selmayr to leave powerful Commission post `next week' - Politico.eu

His departure is a concession to critics worried about too many German officials at the highest echelons of the European Commission and also a reflection of criticism from MEPs and others about his promotion to secretary-general last year.

Selmayr's elevation from the post of President Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff to the Commission's top civil servant angered many in Parliament, which adopted a resolution calling on him to resign. Following a five-month investigation, European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly found the Commission had "stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law" by handing Selmayr a swift two-step promotion. The Commission rejected the criticism.

Asked whom he expects to replace him, Selmayr said the next secretary-general is likely to be a Frenchman. "This Commission is a Franco-German project, and that's a good thing," he said, and nodded at the suggestion that Olivier Guersent, the Commission's director general for financial services, might be a front-runner to succeed him.

Why Martin Selmayr had to go - Politico.eu

next secretary-general is likely to be a Frenchman: De Rugy is available </snark>

by Bernard (bernard) on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 06:35:21 PM EST
What Quatremer says.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Sat Jul 20th, 2019 at 08:11:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I would like to know and understand is, why Macron wanted VdL in this position.

Well, I guess VdL can now sleep relaxed as I assume that the corruption investigation against her and the Defense Department will now be closed. The investigation was in to the millions she spend for consultants, mainly from McKinsey and her son working for McKinsey.

I hope I am wrong, but I have a bad feeling about VdL as the CP of the EU, as every Ministery she occupied in Germany she left in a worst state than when she took it over.

by Fran on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 07:30:02 PM EST
Why does mediocrity (or worse, incompetence) continue to be rewarded?

Fran is not the only one with a bad feeling about VdL taking Juncker's job...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 08:45:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like the votes of M5S were critical for her winning....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 08:49:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since it was a secret ballot, everyone and their dog can claim to have been the kingmaker. Next is Polish PiS Prime Minister who's gloating about "swing votes" too.
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 09:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but then they take the blame as well.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:06:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nietzsche would have something non-ordinary to say. And Heidegger?

Oh, a brief history of mediocrity from antiquity to modernity

by das monde on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:00:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Howdy, old-timer!

It's not as if Juncker was much more than a stumble-bum drunk acting as figurehead, all the same (that's off the record, of course ;) ).

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Sat Jul 20th, 2019 at 08:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Uh-oh, is that defamation under the UK's absurd defamation laws?
by rifek on Sun Jul 21st, 2019 at 01:11:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are in a much better position to comment on VDL's competence than I am, but would I be right in thinking that the German Military, almost any military, would not have taken too kindly to being led by a women, and that she was a convenient scapegoat for failings in the military which have been there ever since WW2?

Also the military, and the senior civil service in the defence department, would not have taken two kindly to her relying on outside consultants for advice. They like to have a monopoly of Ministerial attention.

Of course she showed poor judgement in opening herself up to accusations of conflict of interest in appointing McKinsey's - the firm her son works for. But then again, without knowing anything about the particular consultancy services she asked for and the ability of various firms to provide them, McKinsey might have been the most qualified to provide them.

She may indeed be completely incompetent, but all I am saying is that a women in a male dominated ministry going outside the ministry for advice was asking for trouble. As a loyal acolyte of Merkel, she may also not have been too supportive of the military's requests for additional resources. Ultra right wing politicians and generals can never have too many military toys...

In any case I suspect Merkel handed her a poisoned chalice and kept her in position despite mounting opposition. She was probably over-due a move to another job and now has been rewarded for her loyalty. Her promotion creates a senior vacancy for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and stepping stone for her expected ascension to Chancellorship. What's not to like from Merkel's perspective?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:56:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I got it VdL is the militarist and the one pushing for more money and the one who wanted to fullfil the 2% demanded by NATO and Trump. There have been talks that one day she may follow Stoltenberg at NATO and many would have seen her there rather than Commision Precident of the EU. She is comes over to many as an adamant atlanticist and seems to have a great dislike for Putin and Russia. I am curious how this will work out between Bruxelles and Russia - some people seem to forget that despite everything Russia is the biggest european country.

I don't know about much resistance against her within the department of Defense - according to what I read she seemed have had quite a tight grip and is able to push through what she really wants.

And about McKinsey what it looks like it is not a million but millions accumulated over the years, which is now being investigated. There is also squandering of money under her rule with the renovation of the Gorch Fock which should have cost 9 millions and courentlly is at 135 million and counting, just as an other example. And these complains are not just about the current department but also about the two before them.

I hope that you might be right, that the perception of her - mine and others is not all there is, and that maybe in her new position she can show the rest of what she has to offer. If her speech indicates what she really wants, she might be tough enough to push it through - but I just can not yet get ride of my bad feeling about her and unfortunately to often I found that my feeling was right. However for the sake of the EU and Europe I would really love to be wrong and experience that she is way more competent than she was given credit for.

by Fran on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 12:32:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gorch Fock? I had to look it up. So glad it's a Schiff and not a Kloster...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 04:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole mess started with her predecessor. Remember smart and fashionable von Guttenberg? Seehofer's favourite prince, who resigned because he so blatantly plagiarized his Phd thesis (probably had it ghostwritten). He is allegedly at fault for starving the army of resources and causing the perpetual state of bad repair.

VdL brought the magic consultants in to fix the dysfunctional procurement process. Even one of her secretaries of state was a former senior McKinsey consultant. Well, where did all those contracts come from? As the major unforced error on her part, early-on she attested the troops an "attitude problem". Which immediately lost her trust among the military. From then on it was basically over.

And now AKK is supposed to cut a decent enough figure in that post. At least for a while until Merkel steps off. So that she can credibly be in the pole position come a new election, having spent time on the Federal work bench. Until very recently she upheld a 'sacrosanct' promise to spend her full energy on being the CDU chief to renew the party. Her appointment is thus not going down well with the party members. But given the lack of other credible contenders, she is still likely to end up with the top job.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 09:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Von der Leyen leans on gender balance in quest for Commission presidency
Anything Juncker can do she can do better.
No she can't.
Yes, she can.
No she can't.
Yes, she can...

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 07:55:31 PM EST
Secret ballot, so no detail on how many in the EPP, S&D and RE voted for or against her.

383 votes for, 327 against, 22 abstentations or blank which gives 19 absent. EPP, S&D and RE has together 444, so at least 20 voted against, and at most 61.

Of course, if anyone has an available list of those absent the range can be narrowed down. The Cataln separatist appears to still be not seated, and if I understand things correctly, neither has anyone else in their place. So that removes two absent, and moves the range to 22-61 of the coalition voting against.

by fjallstrom on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 08:32:53 PM EST
Politico's liveblog seems to be a good source of details.

Second note from the starts of the live-blog:

Von der Leyen needs 374 votes in a secret ballot to achieve a majority.

She's made a number of concessions and promises in the past few days to woo MEPs and their groups. Among her pledges: granting Parliament the right of legislative initiative; revamping the Spitzenkandidat system; convening a two-year long "Conference on the Future of Europe" and appointing a "chief trade enforcement officer" to supervise the implementation of trade deals.

Will be interesting to see where those promises go and what the revamped spitzenkandidat system will look like.

by fjallstrom on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 08:36:33 PM EST

Will be Germany's new Minister of Defense ...

Leader of Merkel's CDU to become German defense minister | DW |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 08:42:15 PM EST
However, since then, she has failed to connect with voters

Vacancy in the chancellor's office.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 09:58:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, well... Actions don't lie. Everyday we hear flowery speeches about how important Europe and the EU are. About the benefits of multilateralism, European integration, blablabla... great.

And then they go and pull von der Leyen out of the hat. With all due respect, if the EU is that important then the EU commission must not be the thrift shop of settled mediocrity. Just where did Macron get the idea? He doesn't know her - ignorance will no longer be bliss.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 at 09:33:01 PM EST
The Council (all heads of state) wants to retain most of the executive power and a "strong" Commission president would end up casting a shadow on them. Better have some pliable person, just like Juncker, or von der Leyen.
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 09:27:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it just me, or has the European Council become much more active, assertive and powerful with respect to the Commission since the appointment of a full time President of the Council, and in particular, since Tusk got the job? It may be that it is just a consequence of Brexit dominating the agenda so much, where A.50 gives the Council the decisive role.

There was talk, at one stage, of combining the two roles to create a "President of Europe" to answer the Kissinger question of who do you talk to in Europe if you need a quick decision on an urgent matter; but I suspect that idea was abandoned when they realized it would have to be a directly elected position if it were ever to gain much legitimacy. One look at the US system of electing presidents would have been enough to put them off that idea.

But it is clear that while the position of President of the Council is reserved for a current or former prime minister or President and member of the Council, almost any cabinet minister of a major power has a chance of becoming President of the Commission. Of the 12 Presidents of the Commission prior to VDL since 1967, only Barroso and Prodi were previously Prime Ministers (Italy have rather a lot) if you discount the two Prime Minsters of Luxembourg - Santer and Juncker - who don't really count...

So a senior cabinet Minster of a major power is more or less par for the course for Commission President, while only Prime Ministers need apply for the Council job, even if they are often on the way out in their home countries...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:32:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Kissinger question

Shouldn't that be who do you talk to in the US?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NO. In Kissinger's eyes, that would be Kissinger. Even long after he had retired...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:37:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here a little more background information from the english version of der Spiegel: Does Von der Leyen Have a Chance as Commission President? this was writing before yesterdays vote.
by Fran on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 12:47:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent article...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 02:12:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It looks like VDL has been looking for a Commission job for quite some time, but might only have been expecting the German Commissioner or Foreign and Security chief roles. Macron and Visegrád support seems to have been pivotal in her election - helped by her Atlanticist and anti-Putin views. Given the SPD failed to support her, her EP victory by a narrow margin is hardly surprising.

Her recent support for a further Brexit extension might put her at odds with Macron though. Boris shows every sign of fluttering away what little time is left before end-October... Tusk's admonition not to waste the current extension shows every sign of being ignored. It will be ironic if the UK ends up being kicked out despite wanting a further extension. Only an imminent general election would be sufficient reason for Macron, I suspect.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 02:46:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I've written before, the EU's decisions regarding Brexit often end up with some sort of compromise (and kicking the can down the road). It's not always about what Macron wants.
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 05:18:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An A.50 extension requires unanimity - any one head of Government can block it, and Macron was the most reluctant to go along with the majority last time.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 06:47:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least that was his public position. Who really knows. They already demanded last time that the UK give a good reason to get more time and May just wrote a letter that they'll have to vote a few more times on her deal. And the last prolongation lead to Schrödinger's parliament with a Brexit and non-Brexit state overlapping. I suppose at some point there will be an accident but I really don't believe the EU will push the UK out.
by generic on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 07:35:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed a more than average article ... Der Spiegel is known for pushing an agenda, so who knows the real order of affairs during the talks and the MEP votes. Fran's post and article just blew away my new diary to be with the title:

Macron's Symbolism of Quattre Julliet


European Defense Pact: Macron and Von Der Leyen

Related reading ...

U.S-Hungarian Relations: 4th of July Bash
Martin Selmayr 'Raus'

Center-right nominee becomes EU Commission President - counting the votes | Politico |

Von der Leyen had the declared backing of the three mainstream, pro-EU groups -- the center-right European People's Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D), and the centrist-liberal Renew Europe group.

However, the S&D group was sharply divided over whether to back von der Leyen, with the French,  German, Austrian, Belgian, Dutch, and Greek delegations all saying in an internal group meeting that they would vote against her, according to a party official. The Spanish and Portuguese delegations, pressed by Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez and António Costa, said they would vote in favor.

In a sign of how thin and fragile her mandate appeared, she also immediately faced questions about the possibility that her majority, which included the support of some British MEPs, would effectively evaporate in the event that the U.K. completes its departure from the EU.

Miscalculation by Dutch PM Mark Rutte: an Atlanticist, conservative and long-time Theresa May supporter ...

News Analysis: Strong signal by northern eight unlikely to be game changer in eurozone reforms
Due to Brexit, smaller countries fear French and German dominance

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 08:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As much as VDL is a controversial character in Germany (and in the German speaking world, judging by the reactions of ETribbers), she is pretty much unknown in France. I've read about mismanagement of the Ministry of Defense and the derelict state on the Bundeswehr, but frankly, who in Europe is excited at the idea of a strong German military?

As to why Macron supported her, I can only try to speculate as to what his reasoning is:

  • Not Manfred Weber, whom Macron didn't want for lack of "government experience" (official reason) and being the epitome of the CDU/CSU's views on EU government (closer to the truth); VDL has been in the German cabinet. Check.
  • Since Timmermans was blocked by the V4 and Vestager didn't have a majority at the EUCO either, an ideal compromise candidate had to be German (check) and EPP (check) to appease the CDU/CSU still miffed at Weber's rejection.
  • Prevent Jens Weidmann from claiming the ECB (check: this will go to Ch.Lagarde).
  • Candidate should be a "federal Europe" type; which seems to be the case with VDL, even if her CDU/CSU colleagues are certainly not leaning that way (but Macron doesn't care about CDU/CSU feelings). Check.
  • Able to speak several languages, including French, like Juncker or Timmermans. Check.
  • Preferably female, to be able to brag about gender balance, "Europe is a woman" etc... Check.
  • Still, not too strong a personality as to not rival the executive in the EUCO (starting with a young and ambitious French president). Check.

All in all, a rather cynical compromise, but that's typical Macron.
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:19:21 AM EST
Excellent summary, but you left out the biggest reason: Macron is rather partial to photogenic older women...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 10:38:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Adding to this, in light of the past week's events, it looks pretty clear that the Council has wanted to reassert its preeminence over the Commission, especially vis a vis the Parliament and the Spitzenkandidat system (which has never been written in any treaty, BTW). Macron's ambitions have certainly played a part, especially now that the EPP and PSE do no longer have an absolute majority at the EP and have to rely more on RE and its large French Macronistas contingent.

The other ominous thing is the blocking of Timmermans by the fascists in the Council, Orban and Morawiecki, despite him being Macron's and Merkel's plan A (reportedly helped by the Eminence Grise Martin Seylmar). The Franco-German axis is not that almighty it seems.

Lastly, the kabuki theater at the European Parliament leading to VdL confirmation has shown to be largely due to German domestic politics turmoil and the uncertain future of the GroKo. That the CDU/CSU and the SPD (and even die Grünen) bring their infighting all the way to Strasbourg is not exactly good news: over tha past years, much of EU and EZ policy decisions have been driven by political thinking in Germany, even during a crisis. No EU country is an island, not even the insular states (or the big continental ones).

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Jul 20th, 2019 at 10:32:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If an Irish person, or, I suspect, a person from most other EU states had been nominated for President of the Commission, you can be sure they would have had the support of at least all of their own government MPs and MEPs, and probably of the national opposition as well. There would have been a lot of pride that "one of our own" had gotten the top job, and even the opposition would have suffered from a public backlash if they hadn't supported a compatriot.

In typically German fashion, not only did VDL fail to get unanimous support from German CDU members, most of the German opposition voted against her as well. She only got her narrow majority because Spanish and Portuguese socialists, and most to the EPP and Liberal groups from other countries supported her.

Much of this may have been pique that the Spitzenkandidat system had been overturned by the EU Council. For some a desire to show the EP isn't just a rubber stamp for Council decisions. But it may also herald a time when the Commission and Council can no longer take EP support for their proposals for granted.

VDL will have to work hard to ensure that not only the Council but the EP is on board with the policy agenda she sets out. National Commission nominees could be in for a rough ride if there are too many men who are not obviously well qualified for the job. Overall it bodes well for increased scrutiny by and accountability to a Parliament with a large oppositional element.

It sounds better than Boris threatening to prorogue parliament in order to thwart its opposition to a no deal Brexit.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 17th, 2019 at 09:52:35 PM EST

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