EU Commission nominee hopes Britain would stay, open to Balkans


The German defence minister will make a speech to MEPs in the morning, then lawmakers will debate her nomination until midday.

German Defense Minister and candidate for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, center, is escorted by security guards and her assistants between meetings at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

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".

Von der Leyen also attacked Beijing's record on personal freedoms, criticizing the way it treats its citizens and predicting they will eventually rise up against the communist administration.

The magazine also reported her saying: "In case we're going to have a Brexit, I'm convinced it is crucial how the tone is and the attitude with which Brexit happens".

Von der Leyen replied, "Yes, the door is open because we want you in". She also stressed that the focus of her attention will be on promoting the rule of law, digitalization, competitiveness and the fight against climate change.

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 prolonged negotiations to secure the votes needed to confirm her appointment have highlighted the increased fragmentation of the European Parliament since the election. And for that we will have to be more ambitious with our climate goals for 2030.

Should she succeed, von der Leyen said she wanted a gender balance at the Commission and that Dutch Socialist Frans Timmermans would be her first deputy along with Danish liberal Margrethe Vestager, now the EU's competition chief. "We don't know her", Bas Eickhout, a Green lawmaker from the Netherlands, told Reuters.

She met with the European Conservatives and Reformists group on Monday.

Diplomats in Beijing are consequently braced for a more confrontational era of China-EU relations over the five years of her mandate, compared to the softer approach taken by Jean-Claude Juncker.

What exactly did she say about Brexit?

"It's a huge step backwards for European democracy to have someone nominated who hasn't been campaigning and hasn't been a lead candidate.", Keller said after the meeting with 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".

The largest, centre-right group, the European People's Party, supports her with its 182 MEPs.