The German defence minister spent the weekend holed-up in her temporary Brussels office working on a plan to win the backing of MEPs in a confirmatory vote on her presidency bid on Tuesday. Under the EU’s rules, Ms von der Leyen, 60, must secure at least 374 votes before she can be crowned as the first woman head of the European Commission. In a bid to seize control of the bloc’s policies for the next five years, MEPs have used the finely-balanced contest to extort political promises from the 60-year-old.
Ms von der Leyen will deliver a speech tomorrow to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, during which she will have to address concerns such as fighting climate change, upholding rule of law and migration.
EU capitals are watching carefully fearing a potential “institutional crisis” if MEPs reject her candidacy.
The Parliament’s liberal and social-democrat blocs have signalled that they will make their support conditional on the German signing up to a number of commitments in her speech.
Both have demanded that the Commission maintains pressure on Poland and Hungary and preventing their governments becoming too authoritarian.
A Social and Democrats spokesman said: “Very clearly we wouldn’t accept any step back of the last Commission on the rule of law.”
Along with the support of European People’s Party, of which Ms von der Leyen is a member, she is expected to easily surpass the voting threshold.
Green and socialist MEPs have publicly signalled that they will not offer their support when the vote is held tomorrow evening.
They have warned that the German’s programme, which she set out to political groups last week, lacks ambition.
The European Conservatives and Reformists group, which contains Poland’s Law and Justice party, have placed conditionality on Ms von der Leyen dropping the Commission’s tough stance on breaches of rule of law.
An ECR spokesman said: “I think if the attacks continue, the treatment continues the way it has done, the double standards continue, it’s certainly going to push us in a negative direction in terms of supporting her.”
After more than 50 hours to deliver the package for the EU’s next leadership team, EU leaders are concerned that rejection for Ms von der Leyen would see their hard work unravel.
Under the bloc’s rules, if MEPs reject the candidate for Commission president then leaders must produce a new name within “a month’s time”.
Diplomats claim it would be tough to find another candidate that addresses the criteria used in the surprise nomination of Ms von der Leyen.
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, insisted the blow of rejection would not be the end of the EU.
He said: “Now the European Parliament has the floor and it does not need tutoring.
“If von der Leyen is not elected, one more round will be needed. That would not be the end of Europe. Germany also took a while to get a new government.”