Ursula Von der Leyen right choice?

Ursula Von der Leyen is the new European Commission president

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Is Ursula von der Leyen the right choice for European Commission president?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Ursula von der Leyen has been narrowly elected president of the EU Commission.

She scraped through the secret ballot of MEPs, winning nine more votes than the minimum required to be elected into the role.

The controversial figure has been called a "positive step" after the bold promises she made in the election.

However, critics call her election a "slap in the face".

The Claim

Alexandra Hennessy, a senior lecturer in government at the University of Essex, argues that the "controversial choice for [the] EU top job may actually have been the right one".

In an article for The Conversation, she says that the former German defence minister "promised something to everyone".

For the liberals, she promised to make Margrethe Vestager, their preferred candidate, a vice president equal to Frans Timmermans, who is expected to stay on.

For the Greens and socialists, she promised to put carbon neutrality into law within her first 100 days. She also said she would propose legislation for a "fair minimum wage" in every country.

Hennessy explains that her largest concession was to offer the European Parliament the right to initiate legislation.

She writes: "This would remove the European Commission's monopoly on the process and go a long way to appealing those who want the elected parliament to have a greater say."

Hennessy concludes: "Although von der Leyen was not a lead candidate, her election could be a positive step.

"To get the position, she has made some bold promises - including on making the election of future presidents more democratic.

"The parties who supported her will miss no opportunity to hold her feet to the fire."

The Counterclaim

However, the Daily Express says that the appointment of von der Leyen is seen as a "step backwards".

They report: "Brussels is on track to face increasing dissent from the European Parliament as MEPs vociferously denounce the selection process for the next leader of the European Commission as a 'slap in the face of European voters'."

Christophe Hansen, one of the MEPs for Luxembourg, calls the process "completely un-transparent".

He said: "The Parliament and the political groups in the European Parliament, or most of them, made great steps toward more transparency, towards more democracy.

"They presented lead candidates for the European elections, these candidates got their results but in the end, the Council just put them under the carpet like they used to in the past.

"It’s a big deception, a big step backward – it could have been an enormous step forward for democracy in the European Union, we had big participation in the European elections so it’s not only a slap in the face of the European Parliament but European voters as well."

The Facts

Ursula von der Leyen is the first woman to be elected as the president of the European Commission. She is also the first German to lead the Commission in half a century.

She won a total of 383 votes - nine more than required to be elected. According to The Conversation, a slim margin of 400 votes is "generally seen as a weak mandate that will make it difficult to secure legislation majorities for the five-year term".

Before her election to the top EU job, von der Leyen had a 29-year career in German politics. She is a member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, serving as a deputy leader since 2010.

In government, she has served as a minister for family affairs and a minister of labour and social affairs. In 2013, she became the country's first female defence minister, serving in the role until her election as European Commission president.

She will replaced Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1. Von der Leyen will oversee the Commission, which "drafts EU laws, enforces EU rules and has the power to impose fines on member states if necessary".

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