This week the European Parliament approved the appointment of Ursula Von der Leyen as the next President of the European Commission. Ms. Von der Leyen, formally Defence Minister in the German Federal Government, was nominated by the European Council for this job.
In her yesterday’s speech to the European Parliament, President Von der Leyen committed to a number of social and employment-related actions including a framework on minimum wages, an extension of the youth guarantee and introduction of a child guarantee and a European Unemployment re-insurance scheme. However, she made no commitments to reducing poverty and inequalities in general and linked her proposals to the labour market rather than dignity and participation in society as a whole. Although referring to a need for an action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights she did not commit to any legislative approaches in this regard nor any increased investment in social and health care services within the context of the European Semester. Her references to migration were focused around territorial security and defense however she did refer to the need to reform the EU’s approach to migration.
Ms. Von der Leyen’s appointment has had its controversies due to the abandonment of the Spitzencandidate process and the ‘behind closed doors’ nature of the European Council’s decision to nominate her. It is crucial that she now proves she is the President-elect of the people of Europe and not of 28 Heads of State and takes the coming months, before her entry into office in November, to develop a programme for the next 5 years that puts social wellbeing, investment in services and reducing inequalities at its heart. Eurodiaconia will be monitoring this and working with members to try and influence the work to be done.