Meet von der Leyen’s ‘geopolitical Commission’
New European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has a plan to boost the EU’s role on the world stage.
In her first Brussels press conference since taking over from Jean-Claude Juncker, von der Leyen said she will lead a “geopolitical Commission.”
She said each week’s meeting of her top team — the College of Commissioners — will make time for a report on “external action.” Plus, members from all commissioner cabinets will form a new “External Coordination” body to bridge external and internal policy work.
The first meeting of the new College of Commissioners took place on Wednesday and featured an agenda heavily geared toward external relations, with commissioners hearing updates on NATO, Albania, and the U.N. Climate Change Conference.
Von der Leyen, a former German defense minister, is also spending much of her first days in office focusing on the bloc’s external relations. She began her week at the COP25 summit in Madrid, and will head to Ethiopia at the end of the week for discussions with the African Union.
In her press conference, von der Leyen said up to €100 billion could be available to help people and industries affected by the EU’s climate push.
“Europe can be and must be a frontrunner on this topic,” she said.
She also pushed back against a proposal by the Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU to reduce planned EU budget spending on areas such as border security and defense, noting that she is “concerned” about the proposed “severe cuts.”
“I think it is time that we work together to ensure that we can deliver on the objectives we have all agreed on together,” she said, while noting that she will discuss the 2021-2027 EU budget with European leaders at their summit next week.
Von der Leyen repeated the Commission’s long-standing position that Albania and North Macedonia should be allowed to begin talks toward EU membership, calling a delay in doing so led by opposition from France a “strategic mistake.”
“I think strategically it’s absolutely important that we make it clear to west Balkans, as clear as we possibly can in our signals, that we want them on our side and that we have a high interest in their getting close to the European Union,” she said. “We’ve required a lot of North Macedonia and Albania, they have done it all,” she said, while noting that she understands France’s position of calling for a revision of accession procedures but that North Macedonia and Albania should be allowed to begin negotiations “in parallel” to any changes.
Nevertheless, von der Leyen will face significant obstacles in achieving her ambition of a “geopolitical” Commission. When it comes to issues like accession and funding for strategic EU programs in areas such as defense, migration or development aid, the Commission can offer proposals, but decisions are ultimately up to EU leaders — and they are divided on key issues such as enlargement, the size of the bloc’s budget, and what kind of spending the EU should prioritize.
Von der Leyen is not getting the luxury of a honeymoon period, as tensions mount in Malta over an investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“I am concerned by the recent developments in Malta, and we are following the situation very closely. To be very clear on that, we harshly condemn the murder of the journalist Daphne,” von der Leyen said. “I will not comment on ongoing national investigations, however what I will say is that I expect there to be a thorough and independent investigation free from any political interference.”
Von der Leyen did, however, manage to deliver on one policy priority in her first days, announcing that all Commission cabinets will for the first time include at least 50 percent female staff at an administrative level. This is “a little revolution,” she said. “It should be normal, it should not be an issue.”
Click Here: Putters