Press release: “Congratulations – now it’s time to deliver”

The non-partisan youth NGO “Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe” congratulates the new European Commission, and President Dr. Ursula von der Leyen notably, the first woman ever elected for the top executive role in the European Union. “The process has not been easy and will have consequences; expectations have also been raised for institutional reform: Ms von der Leyen and her Commission will need to deliver”, says Leonie Martin, President of JEF Europe.

The strength of Government stems from popular consensus. In the EU, this means that the Commission can deliver best when it builds a close and constructive relationship with the European Parliament, the only democratically-elected body representing European citizens.  Despite the protracted confirmation process for the College as a whole, the von der Leyen Commission increased its consensus in the House, owing in part to the President’s effort to work with the political groups. Von der Leyen formed her majority in establishing a more detailed programme for her mandate.

“In July, following the confirmation of then President-elect von der Leyen, we invited her to build “inclusive, forward-looking, pro-European coalitions”. Yesterday, she seemed to have followed our advice. But her task is not over yet – otherwise the comfortable electoral margins of today will tomorrow become protracted institutional stand-offs again”, cautions Ms Martin.

The composition of this Commission and the confirmatory process that led to it raise some serious concerns: take the government of the United Kingdom for instance which has failed to nominate a Commissioner which subsequently led to the launch of  an infringement proceeding or look at the refusal of the Council to abide by the Lisbon Treaty and reduce the number of Commissioners. “Baffling how obvious the horse-trading in the European Parliament can be. The approval and refusal of Commissioners-designate seemed to depend more on a balance between the big political families, rather than competence and commitment to European values”.

“How else could one possibly explain the election of Mr Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner from Hungary for the Neighborhood and Enlargement portfolio? His election has been described by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as the ‘greatest diplomatic achievement’. But for whom?”, Ms Martin wonders. While Hungary remains under Article 7 procedure, Mr Várhelyi, now former ambassador from Hungary to the EU close to Mr Orbán, will be responsible on behalf of the Commission to ensure that candidate countries comply with the rule of law and European values. “As Young European Federalists, we consider this matter far from settled, and expect both Mr Varhelyi and Ms von der Leyen to adhere to the highest ethical and political standards”, states Ms Martin.

The speech of the new Commission President – which appeared to be brave in its tones and contents – risks to be ineffective if the EU institutions lack the space and initiative to relaunch the institutional reform, tendering out this role exclusively to the Franco-German duo. “Von der Leyen has made institutional reforms one of her goals – now she and her Commission need to deliver. JEF is always happy to support, drawing on our decennia-old expertise”.

On November 27, the European Parliament elected the von der Leyen Commission, following a hearing process to establish the suitability of candidates. The new Commission was approved in Strasbourg by 461 votes to 157 against, with 89 abstentions. It will take office on December 1, 2019 for a mandate of five years.

About JEF Europe

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO active with 13,000  members active in more than 35 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation. The European Congress of JEF Europe is the highest statutory body of JEF and meets every two years.

More info

JEF Europe
European Secretariat
+32 2 512 00 53