Likely next EU chief says she wants to end member states' veto on foreign policy

Decisions would be taken by qualified majority voting

Jon Stone
Tuesday 16 July 2019 12:09 BST
Ursula von der Leyen delivers her statement at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
Ursula von der Leyen delivers her statement at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

EU leaders' pick to be the next European Commission president has said she wants to end countries' veto on foreign policy.

The move, proposed by Ursula von der Leyen in a speech on Tuesday, would see EU positions on external affairs decided by a qualified majority vote instead of unanimously.

She argued that the change was needed so the EU could act fast on the world stage instead of taking time to find a consensus.

"I will never forget the words of former Iraqi president [Fuad] Masum who said 'we want to see more Europe here'," she told MEPs in a speech in the European parliament on Tuesday morning.

"The world is calling for more Europe. The world needs more Europe. I believe Europe should have a stronger and more united voice in the world and it needs to act fast.

"That is why we must have the courage to take foreign policy decisions by qualified majority and to stand united behind them."

The change would ensure that a single member state or small group of states could not block decisions on the world stage.

The new Commission president might struggle to get the change through, however, because it has long been opposed by smaller member states who worry the they would be outvoted on issues they disagree with the majority.

Qualified majority voting requires 55 per cent of member states to agree to a policy, and also stipulates that they represent 65 per cent of the EU's population.

Ms Von der Leyen faces a confirmation vote by MEPs on Tuesday evening, where they will decide whether or not to approve leaders' pick as the new Commission president.

The European Commission is the EU's executive branch, and has the sole power to bring forward legislation. Ms Von der Leyen would be its political leadership, replacing Jean-Claude Juncker.

In her speech the German defence minister proposed giving the European Parliament the power of legislative initiative - effectively the ability to propose laws.

She also ran through a series of other policies designed to win over MEPs in tonight's vote.

The nominee said she would bring forward a "green deal" to overhaul Europe's economy to fight climate change in the first 100 days. This would be accompanied by writing the 2050 climate neutrality target into law.

She also called for a tougher emissions target by 2030, and said she would turn the European Investment Bank into a green investment bank to back environmental projects.

She also said she would insist on a gender balanced cabinet, telling MEPs: "If member states do not propose enough female commissioners I will not hesitate to ask for new names."

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