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The European Parliament’s Misguided Ambitions

The European Union's core institutions are undergoing leadership successions while besieged by well-known internal and external challenges. And yet, at a time when the EU desperately needs to be able to act effectively, it seems simply to be engaging in more political jockeying.

MADRID – In moments of political transition, initial signals make all the difference, because they set the tone for the process that follows. As new leaders take over the European Union’s core institutions, the first signs are not promising – and in particular those coming from the European Parliament.

The EU is undergoing this succession process while besieged by well-known internal and external challenges: demographic, social, and economic pressures abound, while Europe is more a geopolitical chessboard upon which global powers are playing than a player in its own right. And yet, at a time when the EU desperately needs to be able to act effectively, and is in great need of a realistic but forward-thinking vision, it seems simply to be engaging in more political jockeying. Here, the European Parliament has been ground zero.

That is the message of the confirmation process for the new European Commission president – a process that began in early July, when the European Council nominated Ursula von der Leyen for the post. Von der Leyen was a compromise candidate between the EU’s member states, acceptable to both the most powerful countries and the traditional spoilers. She possesses many strengths, not least her deep understanding of European approaches to defense and security, a topic that will be at the forefront of the next EU mandate. She has also proven her ability to navigate tricky political waters. But for the European Parliament, von der Leyen’s nomination was unwelcome, because her name was not on the shortlist of candidates that it had pre-announced.

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