New EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen

Church figures welcome appointment of von der Leyen as EU Commission President

Key figures in the European Catholic Church have welcomed the appointment of German politician Ursula von der Leyen as the new European Commission President.

Driving the news

Von der Leyen has been German Defence Minister and deputy leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union.

She was approved as the new European Commission head by a vote of 383-327 in the European Parliament on July 16.

But her appointment has attracted controversy.

She was not one of the “leading candidates” (Spitzenkandidat) for the position, leading to criticisms that she only got the job by backroom party deals.

She was forced to rely, too, for her confirmation in the European Parliament on the vote of far-right and eurosceptic parties.

Von der Leyen is also currently under investigation in the German Parliament for alleged cronyism in the awarding of German defence contracts.

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Where it stands

But for president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, von der Leyen’s appointment is a “good solution”.

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“You always have to make compromises in Europe”, Hollerich told Dom Radio.

“The EU is facing turbulent times, when many future questions must be clarified – and with Ursula Von Der Leyen, the EU is looking ahead”, said Hollerich, as The Tablet reports.

The president of COMECE – who is also Archbishop of Luxembourg – welcomed von der Leyen’s focus on a “social Europe” and her commitment “to move Europe forward”.

Hollerich praised the fact that von der Leyen has not engaged in “lazy compromises” on the issue of the refugee crisis.

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Go deeper

Similarly, COMECE official Michael Kuhn praised von der Leyen’s “assertiveness and self-confidence”, as The Tablet reports.

Kuhn, COMECE Austrian senior advisor on ecology, education, culture and youth policy, said von der Leyen would “uphold the flag of Europe” in the face of growing nationalist movements in Poland, Hungary and other countries on the continent.

He said the Church “can and must support” von der Leyen.

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“This isn’t just about politicians making proposals and then trying to implement them on a political path – it also depends on civil society, and that’s exactly where churches can work”, The Tablet quoted Kuhn as saying.

“Of course, we’ll have to see how we can build a more social Europe under the treaties, knowing that social policy is still largely a matter for the member-states”.

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What’s next

For his part, German Bishops’ president Cardinal Reinhard Marx also congratulated von der Leyen on her appointment as EU Commission President-elect.

Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, said von der Leyen would bring to the task “many years of rich political experience”.

The cardinal praised the German politician’s “Christian vision of the person” and “broad European spirit”.

“You are taking on this post at a decisive phase of European integration, when a lively debate is underway about the future of our common European home”, Marx said to von der Leyen.

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“Now and in the future, we need an EU whose chief aims will be stability, reliability and the rule of law, and which will be guided by engagement in building a successful peace project which guarantees European values”.

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