Ursula von der Leyen has been elected as the new President of the European Commission, paving the way for both Ministers Helena Dalli and Edward Scicluna to be Malta’s nominees for the country’s next EU Commissioner.
von der Leyen is the first-ever woman to be elected to the position. However, she narrowly secured the 374 votes she required to have the absolute majority of parliament, getting nine more with 383 votes, well short of the 420 achieved by her predecessor.
von der Leyen’s election was anything but smooth sailing with lobbying continuing on till voting. The former German Defence Minister was opposed by the Greens, while there exist many critics with the EU’s two biggest blocs, the centre-right EPP and centre-left PES.
Lovin Malta is so far informed that the PN MEPs all voted in favour of her election, with it being just yet unclear for the PL voted in what was a secret ballot.
Roberta Metsola, in particular, gave an impassioned speech during the earlier debate, emphasising the threats made against the media (in particular reference to Daphne Caruana Galizia), the issues surrounding the sale of citizenship, and plastic-pollution.
Miriam Dalli echoed the environmental concerns. A European Leader on the issue in her own right, Dalli called for strong leadership to finally address the issue head-on.
So what is von der Leyen proposing and what it means for Malta’s commissioner?
Setting out her agenda earlier in the day, von der Leyen pushed for a green deal within the EU, in a bid to make the block carbon neutral by 2050. She also will ensure a completely gender-equal commission, while also pushing for the EU to play a bigger role in social welfare.
The plans for the gender-equal commission will see each member state nominate two candidates for the role, opening up the possibility for two major politicians to battle it out for the role.
Currently occupied by Karmenu Vella, who heads the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commission, both Dalli and Scicluna will be vying for top posts after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat missed out on a key role.
It is likely that Dalli and Scicluna will compete for the role, with sources saying that both are highly keen on the role. The pair also faced off against one another in the Labour Party’s Deputy Leadership election, which was eventually won by Minister Chris Fearne.
The nominations for Commissioner will be submitted in the coming weeks with a final selection taking place in September.