2 women vying for Europe's top jobs
Two women are vying for a couple of Europe's top jobs, to be decided in a secret vote on Tuesday.
Outgoing German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen is seeking to become the first woman to hold perhaps the most important post in the 28-nation EU — the job of European Commission president.
On Tuesday, she set out her political objectives on a greener, gender-equal Europe where the rule of law continues to hold sway, in an attempt to gather the requisite 374 votes out of 747 at the European Parliament.
The Christian Democrat of the European People's Party was a last-minute candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker that EU leaders agreed as part of a package of top jobs that were decided on early this month.
Under the package, the free-market liberal Renew Europe group got Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel as Council President and the Socialists won the top parliament job. France's Christine Lagarde, managing director of the Intenational Monetary Fund (IMF), was put forward as president of the European Central Bank.
Lagarde announced Tuesday she had submitted her resignation from the global lender, saying she had "greater clarity" about her nomination to head the ECB.
Von der Leyen told lawmakers in Strasbourg Tuesday that the gender element will be essential if she is elected Commission President overseeing a team of 28 commissioners.
"I will ensure full gender equality in my College of Commissioners. If member states do not propose enough female commissioners, I will not hesitate to ask for new names," she said.
Pointing out that since its inception in 1958, less than 20 per cent of commissioners had been women, she said: "We represent half of our population. We want our fair share."
If the parliament rejects her candidature, the whole package of political appointments could fall apart like a house of cards and throw the European Union into a constitutional crisis.
The parliamentarians have not so much objected to von der Leyen personally as voiced their anger that they were sidelined in the appointment process: Their candidates for the commission post, arguably the most important of all the jobs, were all rejected by the EU leaders.
Officials in the von der Leyen camp acknowledge that the vote will be a cliffhanger but say that she will scrape by.
'A green deal'
During her address to the parliament, von der Leyen addressed what she sees as the biggest challenge: climate change.
"I want Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050," she said, adding she would work out "a green deal for Europe in the first 100 days" of her office. It would include rules to improve on the current goal of reducing emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.
She said she would set up a climate division within the European Investment Bank to "unlock one trillion Euros of investment over the next decade."
Despite the need for votes to get the absolute majority, she insisted that her commission would continue to be tough on countries like Poland and Hungary, which have been accused of disrespecting Western democratic values when it comes to the rule of law.
"There can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the rule of law. There never will be. I will ensure that we use our full and comprehensive toolbox at European level," she said.