First defeat for the new EU president

On the first day of the hearings in the European Parliament, the incoming president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had to remove two candidates from her team.

The future EU Commission President von der Leyen had to change her 26-member team at the last minute. After the European Parliament confirmed its rejection of the two Commissioners-designate from Hungary and Romania on Monday, von der Leyen requested two new candidates from Budapest and Bucharest.

The Hungarian government reacted promptly – and proposed the former EU ambassador Oliver Varhelyi. The Legal Affairs Committee in the European Parliament had previously rejected the previous conservative candidate Laszlo Trocsanyi. The MEPs also gave the Romanian Rovana Plumb (Social Democrats) a final rejection.

Trocsanyi and Plumb had already failed last Thursday. They are accused of conflicts of interest and opaque financial practices. Von der Leyen, however, did not initially want to accept this. The CDU politician called for a renewed review by the EU Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.

This led to confusion and reactions of defiance. Left-wing and Green MEPs said that they refused to vote twice on the same candidates. At a turbulent second meeting of the Committee on Legal Affairs, however, MEPs reiterated their opposition. Now von der Leyen must find a solution.

The situation is confusing. In theory, Hungary and Romania could refuse to nominate new candidates. Trocsanyi called the rejection a “manifest injustice” and announced legal steps. Hungary’s head of government Orban claimed that his husband would be punished for his uncompromising stance on migration policy.

Shortly afterwards, however, Orban changed his mind and nominated the current EU ambassador. In Brussels, many observers believe that this turn of events will be a fitting one for von der Leyen. With the “No”, the “dirty work” of the Leyen had been removed, said one MEP, who did not want to be named.

Nevertheless, it remains a defeat. A strong head of the Commission would have rejected the two failed candidates from the outset. But von der Leyen did not dare …

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