A tough road ahead for new EU president

The new president of the European Commission, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, has her work cut out.


Von der Leyen bloomed with Green support
(Image credit: 2019 Getty Images)

The Germans have a saying that "elected is elected and a majority is a majority", but Ursula von der Leyen "will take office with her authority already dented" after scraping through her confirmation as president of the European Commission by "just nine votes", says The Economist.

The role, generally seen as the most important job in the EU, puts her in charge of the Commission, which manages the EU's day-to-day affairs and proposes legislation. But the narrowness of her victory, and the fact that it depended on a last minute change of heart by MEPs from the hard-right ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, means she faces a difficult task.

Von der Leyen's "razor-thin" victory is a win for national governments in their fight for control of the Commission, says Lionel Laurent for Bloomberg. The appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker five years ago appeared to set a precedent that the largest grouping in the European Parliament would get to nominate the president. But the decision to appoint Von der Leyen, previously Germany's defence minister, after closed-door negotiations between national leaders, suggests "the pendulum has swung back".

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Von der Leyen's policy promises on environmental issues, social policy and gender equality may have won over enough sceptics in the socialist, green and liberal camps for her to scrape through, say Alex Barker and Mehreen Khan in the Financial Times, but it also alienated many of those in her own centre-right party, "dozens" of whom voted against her. This doesn't bode well for her chances of getting the proposals through a highly fragmented Parliament.

Still, a majority remains a majority, says Politico. Even if populists and eurosceptics oppose her proposals, she may still get much of her agenda through with the support of the greens she wooed at the last minute.It was "the most intense two weeks of my political life", she told reporters after her victory. A still tougher road lies ahead.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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