11 Jul 2019, 14:00
Julian Wettengel

“Vague” messages by EU top-job candidate in parliamentary meetings – media comments

ARD / Handelsblatt / Zeit Online

German media commentators described Ursula von der Leyen, candidate for the European Commission presidency and German defence minister, as being in a difficult situation as she was trying to please as many actors as possible in meetings with several political groups on 10 July. This meant she had to remain vague on key issues, such as climate action.

In her meetings with the European Parliament’s political groups, von der Leyen “talked about 1,000 details, but did not have a memorable message,” says Ralph Sina in a commentary for the public broadcaster ARD. She brought a “little gift” for each group, such as a CO₂ price “as a bait for the Greens,” but with her “noncommittal performance” she did not render herself or the EU a service, says Sina. “Von der Leyen argued in several languages, but without passion.”
In a similar vein, Hans-Jürgen Jakobs argues in the business daily Handelsblatt’s Morning Briefing that von der Leyen often remained so hazy on key topics that the “master of nouvelle vague” will likely be denied the votes of many in the political groups she visited.
“She cannot say yes to everything,” Lenz Jacobsen describes von der Leyen’s difficult situation in finding enough votes in the European Parliament in an article for Zeit Online. On the other hand, “a clear government programme is not discernible after these first public appearances,” writes Jacobsen. Only the “first policy outlines of a Commission President von der Leyen have emerged.”

Climate and energy policy have never been her brief or the focus of von der Leyen’s political engagement, though she has indicated in recent comments that she took the climate crisis seriously. The European Parliament plans to vote on her candidacy next week. She needs the backing of an absolute majority of 376 votes in the 751-seat chamber to get confirmed as president of the European Commission. Her nomination has caused severe irritations because she was not one of the leading candidates in the European Parliament elections and emerged as a leading candidate only after days of horse-trading among European leaders.

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