EU Parliament to vote on von der Leyen on July 16

Courageous Margaret Thatcher proved that women can lead

Courageous Margaret Thatcher proved that women can lead

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was grilled by EU legislators from the socialist, green and free-market liberal groups in the EU parliament, which expects to vote on whether to confirm her as European Commission president next week.

Many MEPs were frustrated that national leaders chose her over some of the frontrunners from the biggest political groupings in the new parliament, following the elections in May.

Von der Leyen was "evasive on all the answers".

"None of us is flawless and we need to know that and we need to have transparency about that".

She also made it clear she opposed attempts by both men to reopen discussions on the backstop, the fallback plan to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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Von der Leyen replied in German, but Parliament Magazine has translated part of her response as: "If the United Kingdom needs more time we should give it to them".

German Social Democrat MEP Katarina Barley lamented the European Council's decision to nominate a candidate out of the list the parliamentary groups had put forward ahead of the European elections in May. Von der Leyen needs the backing of an absolute majority of 376 votes in the 751-strong chamber to get confirmed as president of the European Commission.

"This is the foundation - respect for the rule of law", Ms Von der Leyen told a meeting with lawmakers from the liberal Renew Europe group in her first public policy comments since being nominated last week. "The EU is based on principles". Her promises to fight climate change were not enough for Green deputies who vowed to vote against her. She wholeheartedly supported the European Union going carbon neutral by 2050 and said the bloc should harvest economic benefits of environmentally-friendly policies.

She also said the European Union needed to advance single market reforms, invest in joint defence capacities that would complement those of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and "become more assertive" towards the United States.

As explained by von der Leyen, such a solution is needed because, among other things, none of the member states is ideal.

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If this happens, she will become the first woman to take the EU's top post. "Ms von der Leyen is simply not a Commission president that the Green group can support".

In her first public comments about Brexit since securing the nomination, she told British MEPs that she still hoped the United Kingdom would reverse course, but urged Britain to provide clarity for the future: "it is in our interests to have you sort things out".

Christoph Glück, president of the Young European Federalists, said: "We certainly knows she wants defence integration. We absolutely know how crucial this non-existing of a border is for you, and therefore having the backstop in the Brexit deal is", said von der Leyen, referring to the "backstop" agreement aiming to protect the open Irish border, which a future British prime minister is liable to try to change.

A vote on von der Leyen's candidacy could come as soon as Tuesday. But she needs more votes.

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