Friday, 19 July, 2019

EU Commission candidate von der Leyen grilled by legislators

Ursula von der Leyen signals she will not reopen Brexit talks Germany's von der Leyen begins EU charm offensive
Steven Clarke | 13 July, 2019, 22:28

Ursula von der Leyen, the nominee to lead the European commission, has signalled she will not reopen Brexit talks with the next British prime minister and stressed the "precious" Irish backstop must be defended. Ms von der Leyen was branded "disappointing" and accused of "ignoring the climate emergency" after making her pitch to the 74 Green MEPs in the European Parliament.

The German defence minister has been on a charm offensive to win over European lawmakers after her name was put forward by EU leaders in a surprise announcement last Tuesday.

Should she succeed, von der Leyen said she wanted a gender balance at the Commission and that Dutch Socialist Frans Timmermans would be her first deputy along with Danish liberal Margrethe Vestager, now the EU's competition chief.

"This is the foundation - respect for the rule of law", she said, according to an official translation.

Von der Leyen also attacked Beijing's record on personal freedoms, criticizing the way it treats its citizens and predicting they will eventually rise up against the communist administration.

"For that", she said, "we will have to be more ambitious with our climate goals for 2030".

"We insist that the voters deserve a democratic and transparent process when it comes to the choice of Commission president".

Von der Leyen replied, "Yes, the door is open because we want you in".

Mystery deepens surrounding teen's 1983 disappearance in Rome
There were renovations carried out in the cemetery at the end of the 1800's, and then again in the 1960s and 1970s. There was speculation that the youngster may have been buried alongside him - but DNA tests failed to find a match.

Brexit is scheduled for 31 October, the day before the new European commission takes office.

She added that it was also vital to boost the competitiveness of the EU's economy. With some socialists fiercely opposing her election, the support of Green MEPs was considered key for her to reach the absolute majority she needs to be elected.

MEPs will vote on Ms von der Leyen's presidency bid at the European Parliament in Strasbourg next week.

So far, Ms Von der Leyen can count on the conservative European People's Party (EPP), which has 182 seats in the assembly, and most likely the liberals, who have 108 lawmakers.

Pointing out the efforts made to bring southern and eastern European countries into the EU as part of the founding vision of the union, she expressed disappointment that the United Kingdom "is not being given that same energy to keep us".

The German also dealt a significant blow to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt by vowing to defend the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

She added, "We do have an agreement - which hasn't been signed on both sides - and we do have the backstop, and I think it's a good deal, but it's your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out".

Many UK MPs objected to the clause, fearing it would be used to permanently trap the UK in the EU customs union, preventing the country from striking its own trade deals.

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