The EU has a new chief. After a bumpy confirmation process (which saw three candidates rejected), Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s team was approved by a vote in the European Parliament in November, with 461 votes in favour, 157 against and 89 abstentions.
Ahead of the vote, Von der Leyen pledged that, under her stewardship, the EU would “embark on transformation that will touch every part of our society and economy and we will do it because it will be the right thing to do, not because it will be easy.”
Climate change is at the top of the agenda. President Von der Leyen said Europe doesn’t have “a moment to waste” and has put the First Vice President of the Commission, Dutch social democrat Frans Timmermans, in charge of implementing a European Green Deal that will involve “massive investment” in the transition to a sustainable economy.
In a remark apparently calculated to contrast with the approach of US President Donald Tump, Von der Leyen spoke of “an unsettled world, where too many powers only speak the language of confrontation and unilateralism… We must show our partners at the United Nations they can rely on us, as a champion of multilateralism.”
The new Commission has plenty to do. Von der Leyen has committed to supporting digitalisation and new technology, including greater investment in quantum computing, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. She has also pledged to introduce an EU minimum wage framework. And she will propose an EU gender equality strategy, including plans for binding pay transparency measures.
There are limits to what any Commission can achieve. Much of the power over the future direction of the European Union lies in the hands of its Member States. The fate of Brexit, for example, depends on the outcome of the UK’s general election. Equally, the global economic outlook depends on factors outside of Ursula Von der Leyen’s control, including the outcome of US-China trade negotiations.
Will the new EU leadership do a good job? Will they be able to transform Europe for the better? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!