New Commission President promises much – can she deliver ?

Friday, 19 July, 2019

The EU-Member States governments carved up the top jobs in the European Union.  A narrow majority in the European Parliament agreed with their pick for EU Commission President, the German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen. She becomes the first woman to lead the Commission. Without the votes of either the Italian 5 Star Movement, Polish PiS or Hungary’s Fidesz, Orban’s party, she would not have been elected. These parties were instructed to vote for her, despite her being something of a federalist, supporting a right of initiative of the European Parliament for example. She made promises around climate change the Polish and Hungarian governments are not supporting. The process made a mockery of the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process. It lifted the backroom dealing and wheeling of a handful of government leaders to new heights. The new Commission President has announced a Conference on the Future of Europe starting in 2020 that will give people a say and could lead to Treaty change.  Is that her way of clawing back powers to the Commission and Parliament or will the results be as easily brushed aside ?

The Commission President’s political guidelines had a raft of announcements including moving to “full co-decision power for the European Parliament and away from unanimity for climate, energy, social and taxation policies.” This confirms a process already started by the Juncker Commission. She announced that within the first 100 days she will propose a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in the EU has a fair minimum wage respecting national traditions and bargaining.  In the same 100 days we can expect binding pay transparency measures. The new Commission President claims to be  a supporter of social dialogue. So we can expect from her a consultation with the social partners to start almost immediately upon coming into office. Who knows this might lead to negotiations with the employers at EU level. The new Commission President talks about just transition, promised a gender strategy and an action plan to implement the Pillar of Social Rights. We will have to see what the new Commissioners deliver on content. EPSU and ETUC will have clear proposals and demands. The Commission President speaks of fairness. Dutch CEOs of large companies are enriching themselves while their workers get meagre pay deals. Now what will she do to underline such unacceptable corporate greed?

On another level, these discussions are removed from the concerns of public service and other workers. There are tons of protests of health workers and others fighting to keep local hospitals open in France for example. Irish health workers, Italian justice ministry staff and so many others seek improvement in pay after years of measly or non-existent increase. So we want to see radical changes to the fiscal policies in the EU with a focus on public investment in public services. Our struggle for a fairer Europe will continue and we will prepare the new Commission a warm welcome.