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Estonian MEPs focus on different topics at von der Leyen hearing

Candidate for president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speaking before the European Parliament on Tuesday. July 16, 2019.
Candidate for president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen speaking before the European Parliament on Tuesday. July 16, 2019. Source: AFP/Scanpix

Three Estonian MEPs were given a chance to ask questions at the hearing of Ursula von der Leyen, candidate for president of the European Commission, at the European Parliament on Tuesday. Each of the MEPs focused on a different issue, and also appeared to have differing opinions regarding von der Leyen's suitability for the position.

"Europe needs a stronger and more unified security and defense policy, and the European Commission needs to demonstrate its dedication in this regard as well," said MEP Urmas Paet (Reform/ALDE). "I would be glad to see someone become president of the Commission who understands this field and the problems that need to be solved."

According to Paet, as Germany's defense minister, von der Leyen has been involved in decisions that have strengthened Europe's defense capability, including in Eastern Europe. Paet also considers it significant that a woman may be elected the new head of the European Commission.

"I support Ursula von der Leyen as she understands the defense and security field and the challenges facing Europe," he said at the conclusion of his address.

Kaljurand unsatisfied with lack of Eastern European candidates

In her own address, MEP Marina Kaljurand (SDE/S&D) acknowledged von der Leyen's promise to commit to fighting for human rights, equality and the building of an undivided Europe. Nonetheless, she continued, she was dissatisfied with the decision by European heads of state not to nominate Eastern European politicians to any EU leadership positions at the European Council.

"I do not want a Europe where there are new and old members — those with more and those with less of a voice," Kaljurand said, speaking in Estonian. "What will you do to ensure that divides and divisions in Europe do not grow, but rather shrink?"

She did not indicate at the time whether she intended to vote for von der Leyen or not.

Madison: I hope we have another candidate

MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE/ID) said that he did not support von der Leyen's candidacy as her positions did not differ significantly from those of Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans, the current first vice-president of the European Commission. Several Central and Eastern European countries had been strongly opposed to Timmermans' candidacy for Commission president.

"I have met with Mr. Timmermans a few times, and I know that his views and positions were problematic at the Council [where heads of state chose a candidate for president of the Commission]," Madison said in his English-language address. "As I listened to Ursula von der Leyen, I have to say that there is no real difference between her and Timmermans."

Madison also stressed that every country to have joined the Schengen Area is obliged to guard its borders, which is what Hungary and Italy are doing, thus defending Germany in turn. The EKRE MEP also called to put an end to human trafficking.

"I wish you good luck and hope that we have another candidate besides you," Madison said in conclusion.

Vote on Tuesday night, not done deal

EU heads of state decided to nominate the center-right von der Leyen for president of the European Commission on July 3, casting aside the European Parliament's desired system of leading candidates as well as all potential candidates that had been the subject of recent public attention.

Von der Leyen's approval in the European Parliament is not guaranteed, as the Greens are against her candidacy, as, allegedly, are many Social Democratic and euroskeptic MEPs. She needs the support of a majority of MEPs to be confirmed.

The vote to confirm von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. As votes will be cast using paper ballots, the results are expected to be in approximately two hours later.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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