Why I voted against Ursula von der Leyen as new president of the European Commission

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

MEP DAMIAN BOESELAGER voted against new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen because he believes her election sends the wrong message.

At a time when national parliaments across Europe are besieged by populists, and when one of the main arguments of the UK Brexit Party is that the European project lacks democratic accountability, the election of Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission is a large red flag hoisted as a warning that Europe needs stronger parliamentary democracy. We must welcome the election of the first female Commission President, but those of us who want to make the European Union more democratic and the European parliament more accountable to its electors (and as MEP for Volt, Europe's first and most ardent pan-European party, I am certainly one of them) cannot support the process leading to her appointment.

I voted against Ursula von der Leyen for Commission President. Irrespective of the candidate herself, if I had voted yes, I would have been backing a flawed process and the backroom dealings of national governments that only empower those who wish ill on the European project. By voting 'yes', I would have sent a message that we don't care about the voice of European citizens, who want a more democratic EU, and I couldn't vote yes to that.

While Volt agrees with some of minister Von der Leyen's proposals as well as her commitment to a gender-balanced college of commissioners, the party remains unconvinced by her lack of a firm stand on issues including EU reform, migration, and agricultural policy. Now is the right time for reform, and there is a great opportunity here that is being missed. Volt was founded just two years ago to fight for a more united, more democratic Europe, and we will keep pushing for reform. Our party is now a pan-European movement with 55,000 supporters across the European continent, registered as a party in 14 European countries and with over 500 local teams, we can only get stronger as the imperative for reform grows.

Von de Leyen was not a Spitzenkandidat, she has no track record in leading a government, and she has never presented herself to the European people. In addition, there was insufficient time for her to engage in real, in depth negotiations with the Parliament before her confirmation vote. Despite Minister von der Leyen's push for 'more Europe', something I deeply agree with, voting for her would have been prioritising national politics and national interests in the name of 'more Europe' - not fighting for a more democratic Europe itself. Our votes are meaningful, they are important. And if the parliament lets itself be bullied into accepting the status quo: there cannot be more Europe.

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Despite the results of the vote electing Ursula von der Leyen for Commission President, Volt is committed to strengthening the relationship between the parliament, the Commission, and the Council in a democratic and transparent manner. We will work with Mrs. von der Leyen and her Commission to implement our vision of an integrated, sustainable, and altogether fairer Europe.

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- Damian Boeselager is an Volt Europa MEP - a pro-European, pan-European party.

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