By choosing Paris for her very first official visit, the newly appointed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen aimed to thank French President Emmanuel Macron, who nominated her, and to show that they have a strong alliance. The working lunch held on Tuesday (23 July) at the Elysée Palace between the two leaders fulfilled its purpose when both presidents confirmed that Brussels and Paris are on the same page when it comes to ‘regenerating’ Europe.
Having been confirmed as the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker just a few days ago by a paper-thin majority in the European Parliament, von der Leyen did not hide that she came to thank President Macron for his support during a short speech on the steps of the Elysée Palace: “My first trip is here, then I will go to Poland and Croatia … I would like to thank you … for your support over the past few days and weeks.” Germany’s former defence minister was a surprise candidate for top post in the EU executive. Faced with institutional deadlock, the French president proposed the German compromise candidate to European leaders which helped resolve the impasse.
Aiming to build on the support for the Commission’s new president, the French government wants to see Europe’s reform project move forward and also intends to have a European Commissioner who will have an ambitious portfolio. President Macron is allegedly eyeing the climate or economic portfolio and both leaders are said to have also discussed France’s next Commissioner to join von der Leyen’s team during the working lunch. “We both agree that we are working for an ambitious Europe,” said Ursula von der Leyen, adding that “this Europe must affirm its position in the world […] I know that you are on my side and we will now be working together.”