Sassoli ‘reasonably optimistic’ for von der Leyen vote

Commission President nominee Ursula von der Leyen is seeking to secure support from MEPs to allow a vote on her nomination to be held next week. EPA-EFE/HAYOUNG JEON

The European Parliament’s new president, David Sassoli, is “reasonably optimistic” about the vote on whether to confirm Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president next week, EU sources told EURACTIV.com.

The German defense minister is meeting with political groups this week as she seeks to secure at least 375 votes in the current 748-member chamber.

Despite the fact that von der Leyen was nominated by heads of government representing the main political families in Europe earlier this month, she is struggling to convince some of the groups in the Parliament.

But Sassoli, member of the Socialists and Democrats group, believes she could succeed in securing an absolute majority next week in Strasbourg.

He is “reasonably optimistic,” an EU official told EURACTIV.

In order to ensure sufficient time for the deliberations, Sassoli will propose to the political families to postpone the vote, which was initially planned to be held after the debate next Tuesday morning (16 July), to the following day.

The new agenda still needs to be approved by the heads of the political groups, known as the conference of presidents, at a meeting this Thursday (11 July).

To date, von der Leyen has only secured the support of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the Parliament. She will meet on Tuesday (9 July) with the right-wing group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

On Wednesday (10 July), she will meet with the Socialists and Renew Europe (liberal group). She will also hold a second meeting with the Greens, after failing to obtain their support at a meeting on Monday.

On the same day, she will meet with the conference of presidents at 3 pm. An EU official said that the discussion will be important to assess whether her candidacy has obtained sufficient support to allow the vote to be held.

If not, the debate could be held next week but the vote could be postponed to September, at the earliest, to give her more time to obtain an absolute majority.

Officials noted the limited time to agree with the groups on a “serious” programme for the next five-year mandate.

“It would depend on her negotiation and organisation skills…right now it looks 50-50,” and EU source said commenting on the likelihood of a postponement of the vote.

For von der Leyen, the working assumption is to hold the vote as quickly as possible, a third EU source explained.

The source, however, said that the calendar is “ambitious” and added that a postponement would not be “surprising” as Jose Manuel Barroso already did it in 2009.

The sources consulted agreed that the most important thing is to win a “sustainable” and “solid” majority for the next mandate.

The EPP, Social Democrats and liberals, add up to 444 seats. But some national parties, especially Germany’s Social Democrats have publicly expressed their discontent with the nomination of von der Leyen.

By getting the Greens support, she could count on a comfortable majority that would help to compensate for the loss of votes within the largest political families, and potential absentees during the plenary session.

Other conservative, populists and far-right parties had also expressed their support for von der Leyen, including Poland’s Law and Justice party and the 28 MEPs of Italian Matteo Salvini’s Lega.

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