EU Commission candidate von der Leyen grilled by legislators

July 10, 2019
Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is welcomed by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel prior to a meeting at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Monday July 8, 2019. Germany's Ursula von der Leyen has been nominated to become the next president of the European Commission, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has been appointed to take over as president of the European Council. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The German candidate for European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday she would put the respect for the rule of law and a progressive climate policy at the heart of her program over the next five years.

The German defense minister was being grilled by legislators from the socialist, green and free-market liberal groups before facing a vote on her appointment in the legislative plenary next week.

Von der Leyen was the surprise last-minute compromise candidate that European Union member states settled on last week to replace Jean-Claude Juncker.

Though she is expected to be backed by the major groups in the European Parliament, there has been stinging criticism of the way she was put forward as a candidate.

“I know it was a bumpy start we had together,” von der Leyen told the legislators from the Renew Europe liberal group.

A broad coalition of the legislators, who had been elected in May, had wanted one of the lead candidates of the respective parliament groupings to take arguably the most important job at the Commission, which proposes and implements policy across the EU.

However, that initiative was scuttled by leaders under pressure from France, Italy and several eastern member states. Like Juncker, von der Leyen is from the Christian Democrat European People’s Party.

Referring to Germany’s wartime Nazi past, she said she was extremely sensitive to the guiding principles of Western rule of law and said there should be transparency across the bloc.

The rule of EU and international law is becoming an increasing consideration in Brussels what with Hungary and Poland facing allegations they do not respect the ground rules. Both nations reject the accusations.

“It needs to be done that we get a mechanism to provide for transparent making arrangements for observing that the rule of law is upheld in all member states,” she said.

“None of us is perfect and we need to know that and we need to have transparency about that.”

In the wake of the EU’s failure in June to unanimously agree on climate goals by 2050, von der Leyen insisted member states needed to pick up the slack.

“I want us as a European Union to be the first continent that is climate neutral. And for that we will have to be more ambitious with our climate goals for 2030. ”

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