Former German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been narrowly confirmed as the next President of the European Commission, the powerful administrative arm of the European Union.
In a secret ballot in the European Parliament on July 16, von der Leyen, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, received 383 votes, only nine more than the 374 required — the lowest margin since the position of President was established in 1958. She will take over from Jean-Claude Junker in November 2019 for a five-year term.
Before the vote, von der Leyen promised an ambitious left-leaning policy program on climate change, taxes, migration and the rule of law. Many of her pledges — which would require transferring yet more national sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels — appeared aimed at enticing support for her candidacy from Greens and Socialists in the European Parliament.
In the final vote, however, the Socialists were divided in their support for von der Leyen and the Greens formally opposed her. Interestingly, von der Leyen won with the support of eurosceptics in Central and Eastern Europe after she publicly criticized the way the EU has treated them due to their opposition to mass migration.
In the past, von der Leyen has called for the creation of a European superstate:
“My aim is the United States of Europe, on the model of federal states such as Switzerland, Germany or the United States,” she said in an August 2011 interview with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. More recently, however, she appeared to scale back her ambitions: she said that her dream of a federalized EU had become “more mature and more realistic.”
In comments apparently aimed at appeasing Central and Eastern Europe, she added: “In the European Union, there is unity in diversity. That is different from federalism. I think that is the right way.”
An examination of von der Leyen’s policy proposals, however, reveals that she is calling for a massive expansion of top-down powers of the European Commission.