'A slap in the face' Brussels shamed as Ursula von Der Leyen appointment 'step backwards'

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European leaders unveiled their picks to take over the leadership of top institutions in the European Union following weeks of debate among members of the European Council. But the selection sparked complaints from MEPs due to EU leaders opting to bypass the candidates the European Parliament had put forward before the May elections. Speaking to France 24, Luxembourgish MEP Christophe Hansen said: “The process has been completely un-transparent, I think we all agree on that.

“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.”

Each parliamentary group in the European Parliament proposed a candidate to become the next leader of the European Commission once current boss Jean-Claude Juncker retires in November, with German MEP Manfred Weber from the European People’s Party (EPP) predicted to win the seat.

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But, despite Mr Weber’s party securing the majority of the votes in the European elections in May, debate among EU leaders ensued and concluded with the nomination of German Defence Minister Ursula von Der Leyen as the Council’s candidate. 

Spanish MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, from the Socialists and Democrats group, echoed the sentiments voiced by his EPP colleague.

Mr Lopez Aguilar insisted the decision to bypass the candidates the European Parliament had been a “disappointment” and blasted EU leaders for renouncing the opportunity to “democratise” the union.

The Spanish politician said: “This is the European Parliament and in this house, we all share the disappointment.

Mr Kouloglou said: “It’s a very mediocre result. Von Der Leyen is considered a very mediocre politician in Germany.

Without any experience in European politics, how could she deal with a Europe which is in a difficult situation? The choice symbolises the status of the European Union today.”

The European Greens confirmed last week they would not be backing the candidacy of Ms von Der Leyen despite her attempts to bring her to her side with a private Q&A session in Brussels.

The German Defence Minister will need the support of 374 MEPs out of the 751 currently sitting in the European Parliament and would need at least 400 votes to ensure a stable leadership over the Commission. 

Other candidates for the top EU positions include interim Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel for the European Council and Spanish Josep Borrell to manage the bloc’s Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. 

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