Three and a half months ago, I explained in a statement why I voted against the election of Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission. Since then, quite some time has passed, and today I voted in favour of the newly proposed Commission. Let me explain why:
- I have not at all changed my opinion about the process through which the Commission President was appointed. I still believe that it was wrong for national leaders to select a completely unprepared candidate through a rushed backroom deal, and to then subsequently force it through the Parliament using the leverage of national leaders over their party delegations. I continue to believe that her hastily assembled program lacks ambition for real European reform.
- I am also convinced that the process of selecting the European Commissioners is flawed. The Commission President is not free in her choice to select the most capable people for the job. Instead, she has to work with whomever the 27 national leaders nominate.
- However, as Parliamentarians, we had the chance to vet each Commissioner individually (see here my questions to Margrete Vestager and Paolo Gentiloni). For the first time, the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) had the right to pre-investigate candidates, based on their financial interests. They proceeded to block two candidates and forced two others to sell their shares to avoid conflicts of interest – a real step forward for this newly elected Parliament! Finally, one by one, the Parliament has approved all the proposed Commissioners, even though in the case of some Commissioners there were some objections by my Group – which underlines that the process needs to be improved.
- When I voted against Mrs von der Leyen back in July, I was arguing that her election process could have easily been pushed to August, to allow her and the Parliament to come up with a more concrete electoral program; and to allow European citizens to get to know her better. That delay did not happen and she was elected with a margin of nine votes. However today, voting against the Commission doesn’t follow this same logic. Voting against this Commission would only do two things: firstly, force national leaders to present another candidate, without any influence by the Parliament and secondly, delay the work of the EU further.
- There is plenty of work to be done. We Parliamentarians have been working for five monthnow, and the absence of a new Commission is clearly noticed by a lack of legislative proposals (since only the European Commission has the right to propose laws – the Right of Initiative). Indeed, I am waiting for a new Commission to be able to move ahead in my areas of focus: on EU reform, on legal migration and the European Asylum Agency, on digital policy and AI regulation and on the advances in European fiscal policy.
- So where does this leave us? It would not be constructive to vote against, or abstain on the vote for this new Commission. We need to get moving, after five months of waiting.
This does not mean that we accept this process going forward! The structural issues underlying the nomination of the President and members of the Commission need to be improved! Through my role as a member of the constitutional committee (AFCO), Volt is pushing strongly for institutional reform and the creation of a real European democracy, which strengthens the European Parliament.
All the best,