European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen continued her charm offensive tour of European capitals to discuss various contentious EU policies, including migration, climate targets and the rule of law.
After stops last week in Berlin and Paris, where she met with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and President Emmanuel Macron, this week’s meetings with Spain’s Pedro Sanchez in Madrid and Italy’s Giuseppe Conte ensured Von der Leyen met with the EU’s political heavyweights. She also visited Central and Eastern European leaders in Poland, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, nations that have previously had sharp tensions with Brussels.
After meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Tuesday, von der Leyen said that her political goal is to “rebalance the east and the west, to balance the north and the south”, because the “world is calling for more Europe and needs a strong European voice.” She also noted that she would try to achieve balance between bigger and smaller countries, as well as new members, such as Croatia. In Warsaw, similar topics including the Commission posts, sustainable development, prosperity and security were discussed with the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. Von der Leyen’s visits come as she seeks to build political consensus for her new policy program. However, as was evident in her slim victory in last month’s European Parliament vote, she has a bumpy ride ahead.
The European Parliament is set to vote on the composition of the new Commission in October with hearings set to place after the summer recess. A strong advocate for gender equality, von der Leyen has promised to ensure that half of her Commissioners are women. She repeated her calls for member states to submit their nominations, one of which should be a woman, to the European Commission by 26 August. However, only six of the sixteen member states who have put forward their nominees so far have selected women.