The German former defence minister scraped the majority she needed, with 383 votes to 327. Both the liberal Renew Europe and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) groups announced they would back her nomination less than an hour before the secret ballot started. The Greens, however, remained unconvinced by her climate offer.
Climate change played a decisive role after liberal, socialist and green blocs all demanded von der Leyen strengthen her climate platform as a condition for their support.
In a statement, S&D said members had been “sceptical” of her candidacy but after an “intense group meeting” acknowledged she had met their core demands, including on climate action.
“We will be vigilant and make sure that over the next five years she will deliver on the promises she made to us. She must remember that without us, there is no pro-European majority,” said S&D leader Iratxe García.
The European Parliament confirmed on Tuesday (16 July) Ursula von der Leyen by a paper-thin majority as the new European Commission president, giving her the reins of the EU executive for the next …
Climate policy ‘a make or break issue’
Céline Charveriat, executive director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, said that for the first time, climate change had become “a make or break issue for garnering sufficient votes”. “Parties other than [the conservative European People’s Party] agreed not to give a ‘blank check’” to von der Leyen, she said.
“This means that climate change will become a signature issue for [von der Leyen]. She will be held personally accountable for delivering on her promises regarding climate action,” Charveriat said, adding she faces an “uphill battle” to achieve consensus on decarbonisation measures.
Following an intense fortnight of negotiations with the EU’s key political groupings, von der Leyen appeared to embrace increasing the EU’s emissions reduction target to 55% by 2030 – a target the EU parliament endorsed in a non-binding vote last March.
In her final proposal to MEPs ahead of the vote, that commitment was watered down to a “two-step approach” to “reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 by 50, if not 55%”.
The speech by Commission President designate Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday (16 July) in front of the MEPs before their vote to confirm or reject her nomination was hailed as a major step forward both by S&D and the Greens, but raised eyebrows in the EPP ranks.
Greens, the fourth largest contingent in parliament, remained unconvinced by her climate offer. Nationalists, populists and some in her centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), on the other hand, thought she had made too many concessions to the progressives. Ultimately, they did not have the numbers to thwart her victory.
In a press conference ahead of the vote, Ska Keller, co-chair of the Green grouping, said von der Leyen failed to answer the Greens’ political demands with concrete proposals. Her co-chair Philippe Lamberts added that they had only been given “morsels” of proposals at the last minute.