New European Commission Approved by Parliament After Delay

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen speaks to the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday ahead of the parliament’s vote to approve her full cabinet. (Photo via EU/EP) 

STRASBOURG, France (CN) – After a month-long delay caused by the rejection of three candidates, the European Parliament on Wednesday finally voted in Ursula von der Leyen’s new European Commission.

By a 461-157 vote, the European Union’s legislative body approved the entire cabinet chosen by von der Leyen, the first woman to serve in the EU’s top executive post. Eighty-nine lawmakers abstained from the vote that took place in Strasbourg, France.

“Europeans can be the shapers of a better global order,” von der Leyen said in her first speech before Parliament as president of the Commission. “This is Europe’s vocation, and it is what European citizens want.”

She was elected to the role by Parliament in July. The vote on Wednesday was to approve her commission, the EU’s executive cabinet body which manages the day-to-day activities of the bloc.

The former German defense minister’s tenure had gotten off to a rocky start when three of her initial commissioner nominees didn’t survive the vetting phase. The first proposed candidates from France, Hungary and Romanian were rejected for conflicts of interests.

The countries were required to put forward new names, as EU regulations require that each member state be represented on the European Commission.

This delayed the start date of the new commission by a month, while Parliament vetted new candidates. The three new proposed commissioners were eventually given the green light earlier this month.

Following Wednesday’s vote, von der Leyen and her commissioners presented their program for the next five years, which is the length of terms for Commission presidents.

“Climate change is about all of us,” von der Leyen said, emphasizing her focus on the Green New Deal she plans to push for. “We have the duty to act and the power to lead.”

Other topics in her speech included immigration and Brexit, two issues that have been in the news in recent weeks. Last month, police in England discovered the bodies of 39 migrants crammed together in the back of a tractor-trailer. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is holding national snap elections on Dec. 12 amid a deadlock over Brexit.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes the election will give him more political leverage to negotiate his country’s exit from the EU, following a referendum three years ago.

The European Commission had launched an infringement proceeding against Britain after the British ambassador to the EU wrote a letter saying the country would not nominate a commissioner until after its elections.

The rules state that all 28 EU member states must be represented on the Commission, but with the U.K. slated to leave the bloc on Jan. 31, 2020, the remaining member states decided to proceed with an executive body of 27 governments.

Von der Leyen will officially step into her new role on Dec. 1.

“We are ready, Europe is ready. My message is simple: Let’s get to work,” she concluded in her speech Wednesday.

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