The outgoing president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, head of the EU-28 table that proposed the German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen for Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission president job, joined MEPs during their first session in Strasbourg on an attempt to sugarcoat the EU top jobs package.
“For the first time, we achieved perfect gender balance in the top positions. Europe is not only talking about women, it is choosing women,” Tusk the bloc’s newly-elected EU lawmakers taking the floor to present the results of the two previous EU Council meetings. Tusk hopes that the EU’s Chamber will be inspired by this choice in its decision, to approve the first-ever female candidate for EU’s most prevalent job.
Tusk’s speech, however, did not amaze most, as a lot of MEPs from different political groups suggested that von der Leyen’s nomination was undemocratic. “With all due respect President Tusk, I cannot support how things were done and the lack of respect you’ve shown to other institutions,” said European People’s Party group Vice-Chair Esteban González Pons. It was after all EPP group’s leader, Manfred Weber, that was denied von der Leyen role and was left with the domestic head of EPP in the Chamber. “The future of Europe can no longer be decided behind closed doors and through secret plots,” added the EPP’s Pons.
“The Council has the right to propose a candidate to lead the Commission through the Parliament. However, what the Council doesn’t have the right to do is to ignore who have been voted for by European citizens,” added Pons, even if von der Leyen comes from hot own political party.
The chair of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats was not content either, after the Party of the European socialist’ favourite, Frans Timmermans was denied the position, even though his name was a favourite until just a few days ago, as EU’s top leaders plotted in Osaka G20 sidelines, a package under the current First Vice-president of the European Commission.
The new head of the Socialists in the European Parliament, Iratxe García Pérez, said EU leaders can’t “come here and just lay out the Council position and say that we have to vote for it”.
On the European Commission’s future policies the Socialists’ role, García added that the MEPS “will be very demanding with the political agenda of the next Commission, and we won’t accept any candidate who is not willing to put forward the reform of the economic governance, the strengthening of social policies and the ecological transformation. The clock is ticking”.
But Tusk did not back down. “Speaking about different sensitivities in Europe, I would also like to mention the unity and geographical balance on the continent,” said Tusk, hinting on the choice made by MEPs to ruin the leaders’ balance of the package, by electing the Italian David Sassoli in the position of the EU Council’s chosen, Bulgarian Sergei Stanishev.
“It took us three days, because I wanted to be sure that every member state, big or small, from every corner of Europe, was on board when it came to the future leadership of the Union. But of course, there is still room for improvement as regards representatives from the East, in the overall architecture of European positions. In particular that some Prime Ministers from the Socialist family were making commitments as regards geographical balances in this House,” added Tusk, on the Spanish and Portuguese premiers’ Pedro Sanchez and Antonio Costa’s promises to the rest of the leaders that the Eastern EU member states would take one of the bloc’s top jobs.