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Von der Leyen elected new European Commission president

Pledges green deal and universal healthcare for 500m citizens

UVDL

Ursula von der Leyen has been confirmed as the new president of the European Commission and has set out her vision for her five-year term.

The first female president and the first German in the job for more than 50 years, von der Leyen only narrowly won the backing of the European Parliament on Tuesday, with 383 MEPs voting for her, just nine more than the minimum needed to secure a majority, but below the 400 threshold that would signal stable support for her leadership and policies over her term.

Von der Leyen faced considerable opposition, partly because she was not one of the European Parliament’s chosen spitzenkandidaten who were aligned with the European Parliament’s competing political blocs, but instead emerged through negotiation among Europe’s national leaders.

Von der Leyen won support from MEPs through a series of left-leaning policies outlined in her address to the parliament on 16 July,  winning over the Socialists and stressing the importance of her being the first woman to be nominated to the position.

Her biggest cross-party promise to MEPs is to allow the parliament the right to propose legislation – a function that has been exclusively the European Commission’s until now.

The concession is a response to criticisms of the European Union’s workings, especially from populists and nationalists who have attacked its institutions as anti-democratic, and who made major gains in the recent European parliament elections.

An ambitious EU environmental programme, including a ‘Green Deal’ vision was also contained in her speech, with the offer of billions of euros in investment and a new EU carbon border tax, with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality across member states by 2050.

Von der Leyen takes over from Jean-Claude Juncker on 31 October – the very same day that the UK is due to leave the European Union.

Boris Johnson, set to be the next British prime minister, is currently pledging to fulfil this, with or without a withdrawal agreement, although he may well find his way blocked by MPs in Westminster.

Von der Leyen said she would be open to Brexit being delayed further “for a good reason” but insisted the withdrawal agreement would not be renegotiated, despite Johnson’s determination to drop the Irish ‘back stop’, so reviled by the Conservative party.

After her appointment was confirmed by the European Parliament vote, von der Leyen said: “The trust you place in me is confidence you place in Europe. Confidence in a united and strong Europe, from east to west, from south to north. The confidence in a Europe that is ready to fight for the future rather than fight against each other.”

For the pharma and life sciences sector, the direction of the Commission and the European Parliament will become more apparent with the naming of commissioners in key areas.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, current commissioner for health and food safety and Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science and innovation are both standing down, with their successors yet to be named.

Europe’s pharma industry association EFPIA will be hoping for a strong Commission so that reforms – including pro-industry and pro-innovation policies – can be achieved over the next five years, and not get bogged down in disagreement.

The outgoing commission has just implemented two new policies, one strongly opposed by the pharma sector, the other welcomed.

On 1 July, a new supplementary protection certificate (SPC) manufacturing waiver was introduced, relaxing the regulations governing the manufacturing of generics and biosimilars in Europe. EFPIA had fought against the changes, arguing that it undermined European pharma intellectual property, and fearing it would be a slippery slope to more IP erosion, but the Commission argued that the changes will boost the region’s biosimilar manufacturing sector.

The other significant milestone, this one warmly welcomed by pharma, is a new mutual recognition agreement between the EU and the US on pharmaceuticals. This allows the two sides to rely on each other’s manufacturing inspections and substantially eliminate duplication.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

18th July 2019

From: Healthcare

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