On December 1st Ursula could finally move into her office and make phone calls.
A Compromise for a Commission
Finally, Ursula von der Leyen was able to start her Commission. After a first small hick-up, the parliament decided to reject the proposed commissioners from Hungary, France and Romania due to conflicts of interest and non-transparency of financial records, she can finally lead “a geopolitical commission”. A commission full of compromises and ensuring that Ursula is keeping everyone happy who lifted her into the presidency of the European Commission.
First, there are Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, two of the Spitzenkandidaten that were aiming for Ursula’s position, who are now vice-presidents in order to keep the liberals and social democrats in the parliament happy. Second, we have Thierry Breton an ultra neoliberalist millionaire manager from Atos, a French IT-company, who is now in charge of creating digital policies in the EU. Macron, who proposed Ursula for the presidency, thought it might be a nice idea to have someone from the private sector instead of career politicians, someone who previously said: “I won’t be the voice of regulation on AI!”. Third, there are only 27 commissioners but still, 28 member states, whether this is a message by the EU to the UK or vice versa is up to discussion.
Ursula’s Double Standards?
The first meeting of the new commission started with new rules, first, the meetings from now on are completely paperless and, second, mobile phones are banned. This seems like a step into the right direction, however, the Tweet by @vonderleyen seems somewhat contradictory (see picture above). Von der Leyen’s table is full of paper! Well … at least she is not using a mobile phone. One can only wonder who von der Leyen is talking to on the phone? Is she smiling because she is on the phone expressing understanding to France for blocking accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia? (Oh sorry, North Macedonia … wasn’t that one of the changes the EU demanded from Macedonia in order to start accession negotiations?) Or is she distorted with pain because she is demanding an inquiry of the killing of a journalist in Malta? As always in life it is probably a middle ground mixed of both, she is smiling because she can shine as the great president of the European Commission ensuring justice and transparency in a State like Malta.
A good first day?
Overall, we can conclude that this was a good first day in the office. Measured against the standard set by previous Presidents all over the world this first day was fairly smooth and there were no major outcries and calls for immediate impeachment by anyone. We can see that she wants to “get work done” and that she stands for a more active Commission that Juncker did in the past. Ursula’s ideas for the European Green Deal and especially her first trip outside the EU (to Ethiopia) symbolises a newly won European confidence focused on new European priorities. Let’s see what her second week in office will bring.