As MEPs will vote on 16 July around 18:00 on whether they agree on Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination as the next President of the European Commission, she delivered her opening statement in the European Parliament Plenary Session the same day in the morning. As a way of showing the European Parliament her full commitment, Ursula von der Leyen announced on 15 July that she will resign as German defense minister regardless of what the MEPs will vote.
In her speech, she first underlined the importance of nominating a woman at the head of the European Commission as she took Simone Veil, first woman to be elected President of the European Parliament, as an example. Then, she tackled the need to promote multilateralism, fair trade, rules-based order, particularly as certain communities are turning towards authoritarian regimes and protectionism.
On digital, Ursula von der Leyen clearly stated that she would keep pressuring tech companies on taxation: “I will stand for fair taxes – whether for brick and mortar industries or digital businesses. When the tech giants are making huge profits in Europe, this is fine because we are an open market and we like competition. But if they are making these profits by benefiting from our education system, our skilled workers, our infrastructure and our social security, if this is so, it is not acceptable that they make profits, but they are barely paying any taxes because they play our tax system. If they want to benefit, they have to share the burden.”
Even though she did not mention Artificial Intelligence legislation (as she promised Renew Europe on 15 July), Ursula von der Leyen’s policy paper (available here) does. Among the other tech-related topics of her political guidelines, she intends to propose an AI legislation in the first 100 days of her mandate and to put forward a new Digital Services Act that would upgrade the EU’s liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products, and complete its Digital Single Market.
Given the Greens/EFA Group’s declaration on 10 July to oppose her nomination, she stressed the European Commissions’ responsibility to make Europe become “the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050” and to put forward a two-step approach to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 by at least 50%. In order to do so, Ursula von der Leyen promised to implement a Green Deal for Europe in her first 100 days in office and to push for the first ever European Climate Law which will set the 2050 target into law. The leftist European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) bloc, which Ursula von der Leyen met on 11 July, are however still expected to vote against her candidacy.