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Von der Leyen Faces Crucial Vote in Quest to Lead EU Executive

FILE - German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen speaks in Athens, March 5, 2019.
FILE - German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen speaks in Athens, March 5, 2019.

Germany's Ursula von der Leyen faces a make-or-break vote on Tuesday in her quest to be the European Commission's first female leader, and a raft of promises made the previous day may help her win over skeptical European Union socialist and liberal lawmakers.

To appease them, von der Leyen pledged more ambitious carbon dioxide emissions targets, a more growth-oriented fiscal policy and taxing big tech companies.

She also vowed to create an additional comprehensive European rule-of-law mechanism that includes annual reporting, boost the EU's border guards earlier than scheduled to deal with the migrant issue, and set a minimum wage for EU workers.

Von der Leyen also suggested scrapping unanimous agreement by all 28 EU countries on climate, energy, social and taxation issues and give Britain more time to negotiate its exit from the bloc.

Her pledges came amidst anger among some EU lawmakers over her nomination by EU leaders and their rejection of the "spitzenkandidaten," the main parliamentary groups' candidates for the job.

Von der Leyen will address the 751-member European Parliament at 0700 GMT, to be followed by a debate and a secret ballot at 1600 GMT.

The assembly however is currently four members short which means she needs 374 votes instead of 376.

The kind of support she gets could complicate her job as head of the EU executive in charge of trade negotiations, economic and climate policy for 500 million Europeans and antitrust rulings involving powerful tech giants.

She can count on 182 votes from the conservative European People's Party and needs to win over the 153 members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the 108 from the Renew Europe liberals.

Backing from the far-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), nationalists from eastern Europe and British members of the European Parliament however could cast doubts on her legitimacy and weaken efforts to maintain the bloc's democratic norms.

If lawmakers reject von der Leyen, it would be a serious blow for the bloc, battered in the last decade by the eurozone debt crisis, Britain's decision to leave and the rise of far-right and far-left eurosceptic parties.

It would also create a headache for EU leaders who would have to come up with another candidate in a month.

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