Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination was a 'non-transparent rebellion' says PN MEP

PN MEP Roberta Metsola warns that the European Council’s nomination of the German defence minister to head the European Commission will cause complications

Roberta Metsola
Roberta Metsola

Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination by the European Council was a “non-transparent rebellion” and will cause complications further down the line, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola has warned. 

She was speaking at a public discussion organised by the European Parliament Office in Malta, along with Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar.

Von der Leyen was nominated to head the European Commission by leaders after they ditched the Spitzenkandidat system.

Metsola believed the Spitzenkandidat process, which would have seen the European People’s Party lead candidate Manfred Weber taking up the commission post, was now “dead in the water”.

Von der Leyen still needs the approval of the European Parliament to take up the post of commission president.

Agius Saliba said he was convinced of Von der Leyen on certain aspects, such as her commitment to the environment. However, he remained unconvinced on migration.

He said all MEPs have an opportunity to meet with Von der Leyen one last time before the voting process begins and the outcome of that meeting will determine whether they will support her nomination.

Alex Agius Saliba
Alex Agius Saliba

Frustrated at ‘larger countries’ on migration

Turning to migration, Cutajar expressed her frustration that large European states did not seem interested in migration, and rather tried to push tax harmonisation over real concerns countries on the periphery were having.

“The European Union has to do more in terms of migration, I feel frustrated when they pick particular issues such as tax harmonisation because it’s in the interest of the larger member states, and then migration because its largely an issue for smaller states is not at the top of the agenda, despite real concerns member states have” she said, adding that more needed to be done and soon. 

Metsola said that in terms of asylum and migration and finding a solution, most legislation ends up getting blocked in the council, especially when it regards proportionate sharing of migrants.

“I would like to see clear rules on search and rescue, on registration and even on returns,” Metsola said that a migration policy cannot be effective if people who are not eligible for asylum are not sent back.

Josianne Cutajar
Josianne Cutajar

Going to the commission does not make one a “traitor”

A representative of BirdLife asked whether they agreed that it is not wrong for civil society to use the EU as a watchdog of sorts, especially in terms of enforcement.

Metsola said that she would like to see mechanisms put in place that would test all members. “It’s important to have a mechanism in place that is fair, so member states can’t say that they are being bullied,” she said.

Metsola added that these mechanisms would stop people from saying that anyone who sought to use the EU as a watchdog was labelled a “traitor,” mentioning the editorial of L-Orizzont on Friday as an example.

Cutajar said that while she agrees that enforcement should be strengthened, it cannot be a situation where different member states are treated differently. “We can't have a situation where smaller states are picked on yet larger states are allowed to do as they please,” she said.   

A liveable wage needs to be achieved

Turning to minimum income, Agius Saliba said that one minimum wage across all member states would not work and that it was something each member state would have to discuss internally.

However, he said that all Maltese MEPs would be fighting to find a balance to make sure no one was left behind. “We need to put into place a mechanism that would allow us to find a liveable wage across the EU, taking into consideration each individual country. The minimum wage in Germany, can’t be the same as in Bulgaria, it simply wouldn’t work,” he said.