tuesday, 16 july of 2019

EU top nominee von der Leyen in ´green deal´ push for MEP votes

The woman nominated to head the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has pledged to launch a "green deal for Europe", in a bid for MEPs' support.

Mrs von der Leyen set out her agenda in the European Parliament ahead of a key vote on her candidacy.

The outgoing German defence minister needs a majority to take charge.

On Brexit, she said "I stand ready for a further extension of the [UK] withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason".

MEPs reacted with a mixture of applause and boos.

"In any case the UK will remain our ally, our partner and our friend," she said, defending the existing withdrawal deal, reached with Prime Minister Theresa May but rejected by the UK Parliament, which the EU has vowed not to reopen.

The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU on 31 October.

Brexit: All you need to know

If she wins the vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening, she will replace EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 1 November. She is a centre-right politician close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs von der Leyen has been criticised in Germany over the armed forces' persistent equipment shortages and what some consider to be her aloof management style.

Push for climate investment

On climate change, she said "I will propose a sustainable Europe investment bank", to unlock substantially more investment in renewable energy and other measures over the next decade.

What is climate change?

The new "green deal" - promised within Mrs von der Leyen's first 100 days - would aim to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050, whereby carbon pollution is balanced by green measures such as planting trees. The UK has already set a 2050 deadline for becoming carbon neutral.

"It means change - all of us will have to contribute… in the way each of us travels and lives. Emissions must have a price that changes our behaviour," she said.

She also called for a "carbon border tax to avoid carbon leakage" - the practice of moving polluting industries to less regulated countries.

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The Commission drafts EU laws and enforces EU rules, with power to impose fines on member states if necessary.

Mrs von der Leyen said the EU's current target of cutting carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 was not enough. The goal should be 50%, if not 55%, she said.

The MEPs' confirmation vote could be close, as some left-wingers and Greens will oppose her. She was not one of the top candidates put before the European electorate in May.

She made the bulk of her 43-minute speech in English, but there were passages in French and German too - part of her pitch to represent the whole of Europe.

Born in Brussels, she has seven children and trained as a gynaecologist before entering politics.

'Fair share for women'

She promised a big push for the EU to play a bigger role in social welfare, to alleviate poverty, and stressed that she would stand up for women's rights.

"If not enough female commissioners are proposed I'll not hesitate to ask for new names," she said. Each of the 28 member states has a commissioner in Brussels.

"We want our fair share," she said, noting that of 183 EU commissioners in the past, just 35 were women.

In Tuesday's vote she needs 374 MEPs to back her, out of 747 in total.

In all, 751 were elected, but three Catalan separatists are absent, as is Social Democrat MEP Jeppe Kofod, who was appointed a minister in Denmark and has not been replaced yet.

Mrs von der Leyen made some other significant pledges in her wide-ranging speech:

She would push to give the European Parliament "the right of initiative" - meaning the Commission would have to legislate on MEPs' resolutions; currently only the Commission can draft laws

On irregular migration to the EU, she said she would boost the EU's border force Frontex to 10,000 staff by 2024, but said "we need to preserve the right to asylum through humanitarian corridors"

She offered an EU "reinsurance scheme" to bolster national insurance schemes for the unemployed.


(Published by,BBC, July 2019)

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