The Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) - The nominee for president of the European Union’s executive arm said Wednesday she would put respect for the rule of law and a progressive climate policy at the heart of her program if she is approved for the position.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was grilled by EU legislators from the socialist, green and free-market liberal groups in the EU parliament, which expects to vote on whether to confirm her as European Commission president next week.
Von der Leyen was the surprise last-minute compromise candidate nominated by the leaders of EU member nations last week to replace Jean-Claude Juncker.
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.
“I know it was a bumpy start we had together,” von der Leyen told legislators from the Renew Europe liberal group on Wednesday.
By the end of the day, both the Socialists and Liberals said they would withhold their support until the votes in parliament. The Greens were expected to voice similar reservations. A broad coalition of EU 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.
However, that initiative was scuttled by leaders under pressure from France, Italy and several eastern member states. Like Juncker, von der Leyen is from the Christian Democrat European People’s Party.
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. The rule of EU and international law is becoming an increasing consideration in Brussels what with Hungary and Poland facing allegations they do not respect the ground rules. Both nations reject the accusations.
“It needs to be done that we get a mechanism to provide for transparent making arrangements for observing that the rule of law is upheld in all member states,” von der Leyen said.
“None of us is perfect and we need to know that and we need to have transparency about that.”
In the wake of the EU’s failure in June to unanimously agree on climate goals by 2050, von der Leyen insisted member states needed to pick up the slack.
“I want us as a European Union to be the first continent that is climate neutral. And for that we will have to be more ambitious with our climate goals for 2030. “