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The Brief: Von der Leyen makes promises to please environmentalists, socialists, feminists

The Brief: Von der Leyen makes promises to please environmentalists, socialists, feminists
By Shoshana Dubnow
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Von der Leyen used her speech to MEPs to appeal to the votes she still needed. Now that she's been approved in a narrow victory, these groups are both excited and sceptical about if she will follow through with her promises.


Ursula von der Leyen narrowly won the majority of MEP votes on Tuesday night in Strasbourg, making her the first woman in history to assume the position as President of the European Commission.

In order to gain more support, von der Leyen offered up several ideas to appeal to different groups. One of her promises was to get an equal number of male and female commissioners — something that Joanna Maycock, Secretary-General for the European Women's Lobby, has been pushing for.

Von der Leyen also proposed to add violence against women on the list of EU crimes defined in the European treaties.

"We are really excited to hear that proposal from Ursula von der Leyen because it is something for us to recognise the importance of violence against women in Europea and the importance of acting to end it," Maycock said. "To put that on the European treaties means that we pave the way for EU directives that tackle violence against women."

Von der Leyen made promises on environmental initiatives as well. She said she would put forward a Green Deal for Europe during her first 100 days in office and find ways to further cut down on CO2 emissions.

Some environmentalists like Franziska Achterberg from the Greenpeace European Unit think her proposals aren't enough.

"If the EU is to really make its fair contribution to emissions cut globally, it needs to reduce emissions by 65% by 2030," Achterbergher said. "Her proposal of 50% really falls short of the mark."

Von der Leyen appealed to the socialists in her speech to MEPs by introducing a minimum wage and creating an unemployment benefit reinsurance scheme. She talked less about business, but people in this sector seem to understand why.

"It was a speech which alluded more to the points where votes needed to be reached," said Markus Beyrer, Director of BusinessEurope. "This is normal; it is a political process. What we expect now is that the points which are crucial for economic competitiveness are spelt out in more detail."

Many think von der Leyen's speech was written to sway the Social Democrats and the liberals. Now that she has the position, she will have to work hard to follow through with the initiatives she proposed.

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