Donald Tusk urges EU lawmakers to vote for Germany′s Ursula von der Leyen | News | DW | 04.07.2019
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Donald Tusk urges EU lawmakers to vote for Germany's Ursula von der Leyen

European Council President Donald Tusk told the European Parliament that the choice for the EU's top post was made democratically. Many MEPs are deeply unhappy with the German defense minister's nomination.

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Tusk touts 'perfect gender balance in the top positions'

European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday told skeptical members of the European Parliament that they should confirm German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Tusk told lawmakers that the 28 heads of the EU's member states had proposed von der Leyen as part of a democratic procedure for choosing who should take over the EU's top jobs.

He added that her confirmation would ensure that EU institutions would be headed by an equal number of men and women.

"For the first time, we achieved a perfect gender balance in the top positions. Europe is not only talking about women, but it is also choosing women," he said. That would "inspire many girls and women to fight for their beliefs and passions," he added.

Read more: Opinion: What Ursula von der Leyen learned from Angela Merkel

'Partisan and national logic'

But some European lawmakers said the Council's decision was a slight to the EU's democratic process because it lacked transparency and failed to respect the results of May's European elections. 

"The future of European Union can no longer be decided behind closed doors and through secret plots," said Esteban Gonzalez Pons, the vice chairman of the center-right European People's Party (EPP).

Watch video 03:54

EU explainer: What are the EU's greatest achievements?

The EPP, which won the most votes in the elections, had proposed its chief lawmaker, Manfred Weber, as a candidate for Commission president. But the German conservative failed to win support from France, which opposed his candidacy over concerns he lacked enough senior political experience.

Read more: Opinion: No revolution in the EU

The head of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Iratxe Garcia, criticized EU leaders for dropping the center-left bloc's proposed candidate, Frans Timmermans, because of opposition from some eastern EU countries. Timmermans, a Commission vice president, had led efforts to tackle democratic backsliding in Poland and Hungary.

Philippe Lamberts, who leads the Green bloc in the assembly, said that "partisan and national logic" had resulted in von der Leyen's nomination.

During a meeting on Tuesday, EU leaders also agreed to make Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell the EU's top diplomat, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel the president of the European Council, and International Monetary fund chief Christine Lagarde head of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Domestic outcry

Von der Leyen, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU/CSU), faces a vote in the European Parliament due for mid-July. She requires an absolute majority in the 751-member assembly to be confirmed.

However, parliamentary opposition in Brussels and within Germany make her chances of becoming Commission president unclear.

Read more: Ursula von der Leyen: German lawmakers blast European Commission nomination

The deputy leader of the CDU/CSU's coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), said Thursday that he thought that SPD members of the European Parliament would vote against her candidacy.

"SPD members of the parliament have no reason at all to vote for von der Leyen," Ralf Stegner told German public radio.

Juncker praises possible successor

Von der Leyen met with outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday. After their meeting, Juncker praised von der Leyen on Twitter as a "true European." 

"We are on the same page when it comes to speaking up for EU interests," he said. 

"My priorities will be to seek smart advice, listen to all parliamentary groups and together work out the best plan for the future of Europe," von der Leyen wrote in a Tweet.

wmr/amp (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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