Wednesday saw the confirmation of Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission by the European Parliament, with 462 votes in favour, 157 against and 89 abstentions. Before the vote, von der Leyen presented her agenda for the coming years, outlining digitisation, climate change and financial services as her top priorities.
Von der Leyen will become the first woman to serve in the EU’s top executive role with a team of 11 women and 15 men – the closest the EU has ever come to a gender balanced College of Commissioners. In her speech, she stated that each Commissioner will have a gender balanced cabinet for the first time, and that by the end of the mandate for this Commission, there will be gender balance at all levels of management within the Commission.
The European Parliament voted to install the Commission without a British representative, as the UK government has refused to nominate a British Commissioner, citing general practice to not make international appointments during an ongoing general election. EU officials have been wary of a potential future legal challenge against the institution, but the Commission has decided not to immediately escalate the infringement action against the UK government.
Von der Leyen received broad support from the three biggest mainstream pro-EU political groups — her centre-right European People’s Party, the centre-left Socialists & Democrats, and the liberal-centrist Renew Europe. Despite von der Leyen citing climate change as one of her main policy priories, calling for an EU Green Deal, many of the abstentions in the vote came from the Greens. The group does not want to align themselves with mainstream parties and sees itself as an “insurgent force within the Parliament.”
Von der Leyen reiterated some of her other main priorities in this speech. She touched upon the importance of digitisation for the EU, with a focus on disruptive technologies, data protection, and cybersecurity. Von der Leyen then spoke about the importance of investment for the EU, with a call to complete the Capital Markets Union, the Banking Union and the Economic and Monetary Union. Additional priorities include fighting cancer, trade, migration and unemployment.
The new College will take office on 1 December for a period of five years.