On Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen was confirmed by the European Parliament as the new President of the European Commission. According to the latest plan, current Dutch Commissioner Frans Timmermans and Danish Commissioner Magrethe Vestager would become Vice-Presidents on equal footing.
The Renew Europe (RE) group leader Dacian Cioloș made one point and one point only in the chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg with regard to the groups’ demands towards (now President-elect) Von der Leyen: renewing Europe!
Well, at least if you didn't tune in to the official RE group hearing with Von der Leyen earlier in Brussels, where Cioloș seemed a lot more worried that Margrethe Vestager wasn't going to end up on equal standing with Frans Timmermans for the vice-presidency of the European Commission. Riveting, I know…
That seems to be the deal. The new triumvirate in Berlaymont would be called Von der Leyen-Timmermans-Vestager. Rolls off the tongue. Vestager is known for being disliked by the international tech giants. Timmermans appears to fan the hatred he gets from Warsaw and Budapest for his investigation of rule-of-law infringements under the Copenhagen criteria. Von der Leyen is the least known, which seems to be the best one can hope for in this future Commission. She will be unpopular by virtue of her policies.
Fearing that she would not get the necessary votes, Mrs von der Leyen began her opening speech by referring to climate change policies. She proposed the creation of a green investment bank capable of unlocking one trillion euros . She also wants to reduce carbon emissions in the European Union by 50% "or even 55%" by 2050. The Commission's current target is 40%. This attempt to pander to the Greens will cost consumers in the form of higher aviation taxes, even more green subsidies, and a reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
"The market economy must be social," she explains. Mrs von der Leyen wishes to continue the programme of job guarantees for young people and promotes a European minimum wage in addition to a European unemployment benefit fund. These social transfers would presumably be financed through new taxes on energy consumption. The yellow vests will be happy about that.
At the institutional level, the new President-elect pleases the European Parliament by expressing her support for the right of legislative initiative for MEPs (a right currently reserved to the Commission). Since such a reform at this time would require an unlikely treaty change, Mrs von der Leyen promised to react to any European Parliament resolution with a proposal for a directive. In short, this means that the environmental demands of Members of Parliament, who always go further than those of the Commission, will be accelerated.
Pairing von der Leyen's newly discovered green ambitions with Timmermans' smug and undiplomatic demeanour, compounded by Vestager's preference to slap massive non-tariff barrier fines on successful companies, is likely to result in one of the most anti-free market Commissions we've ever seen.
The worst is yet to come.
Picture Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization