European Union political groups won't back nominee before vote

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter

Germany's Ursula von der Leyen yesterday made her pitch to European lawmakers to be the next head of the EU executive, promising to focus on promoting the rule of law, digitalisation, competitiveness and the fight against climate change.

She clarified her views on European defence, restating that national parliaments should continue to have the final say on sending men and women into unsafe situations.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit in January, Von der Leyen said the bloc should apply the same "guidelines" to China as it does to Russian Federation and must not "underestimate itself" in terms of the influence it can have on Beijing.

The Green bloc was less than impressed with her answers, apparently, with Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout telling reporters after the meeting that she was "evasive on all the answers".

If this happens, she will become the first woman to take the EU's top post.

They have yet to decide whether to vote for von der Leyen, who hails from the centre-right wing of European politics led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and who would replace Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker.

Von der Leyen's nomination had sparked harsh reactions within the European Parliament, as MEPs claimed the decision of the Council bypassed the lead candidates (Spitzenkanditaten) put forward by the political families all along the electoral campaign, and called EU leader's negotiation a "backroom horse-trade".

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Mrs von der Leyen also spoke in favour of enlarging the eurozone and the EU's open-border Schengen area, and said the European Union should be ready to take in western Balkan countries.

MEPs will cast their ballots next week in a secret vote, meaning more MEPs could feel inclined to break party political lines, and reject von der Leyen.

She added, "We do have an agreement - which hasn't been signed on both sides - and we do have the backstop, and I think it's a good deal, but it's your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out".

In her first public comments about Brexit since securing the nomination, she told British MEPs that she still hoped the United Kingdom would reverse course, but urged Britain to provide clarity for the future: "it is in our interests to have you sort things out". "We want you to stay", she told one British lawmaker in the assembly.

However, Mr Kelleher said that he was unhappy that she failed to give any position on Ireland's corporate tax rate or assure that it will be respected.

The 60-year-old needs to secure at least 376 votes for a majority, but Brussels insiders believe she is still short of the required numbers.

Lamberts added, "Von der Leyen came to meet us with plenty of goodwill, but when the house is burning goodwill is simply not enough".

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