EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the Christian Democratic Union party congress in Leipzig, Germany. File photo/Reuters
EU lawmakers are expected on Wednesday to finally approve a new executive European Commission under German conservative Ursula von der Leyen after delays and disagreements.
Von der Leyen needs a simple majority among lawmakers in the 751-member European Parliament for her team to start work on Dec.1 dealing with a daunting array of challenges including climate change, economic reform and migration.
The new executive had been due to take office on Nov.1 but the politically fragmented European Parliament rejected three of the nominees, forcing a delay. The executive comprises one commissioner from each EU member state, though Britain, which is due to exit the bloc, has declined to name a representative.
Failure to win Wednesday’s vote in Strasbourg would further delay the start of her five-year term and extend the current transitional vacuum in EU policy-making at a time of trade tensions with Donald Trump’s United States and an increasingly powerful China.
Von der Leyen, 61, a former German defence minister and close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, will be the first woman ever to hold the EU’s top job.
She has listed among her priorities healing EU divisions over migration, stepping up the fight against climate change, tackling gender inequality and equipping Europe better for the digital era.
Building consensus among fractious member states on the politically sensitive issue of the EU’s next long-term budget from 2021 will be another major challenge for von der Leyen and her team.
The Commission proposes laws for the EU on everything from budgets to energy, negotiates trade deals around the world on behalf of the EU’s 500 million citizens and acts as the bloc’s competition watchdog, approving company mergers and setting rules for global tech giants such as Facebook and Google.
The new executive may face legal challenges next year due to Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to finally take Britain out of the EU on January 31 if his Conservative Party wins a parliamentary majority in a Dec.12 election.
As Britain currently remains an EU member after several delays to its departure, it is legally required to have a commissioner in Brussels. Its refusal to name one could expose the new Commission’s decisions to legal risks.
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