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Ursula von der Leyen’s To-Do List

One of incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's top priorities is “a new push for European democracy.” Strengthening the EU's democratic legitimacy will require her to make sure that the EU delivers on citizens’ expectations, including by cooperating constructively with the European Parliament.

BERLIN – When Jean-Claude Juncker became European Commission President five years ago, he confronted formidable challenges. But the test faced by his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, is even more complex.

As von der Leyen underscored in her “agenda for Europe,” one of her top priorities must be to carry out “a new push for European democracy.” She can strengthen the European Union’s democratic legitimacy in two ways: on the output side, by making sure that the EU delivers on citizens’ expectations at a time of rapid change and escalating external challenges, and on the input side, by fostering constructive cooperation with the European Parliament.

Yet, today, the European Parliament is highly fragmented and polarized, making a stable, pro-European coalition difficult to build. In order to pass legislation, von der Leyen will need the support of the Conservatives and Social Democrats, as well as robust and productive working relationships with the Greens and the Liberals. She will probably have to form flexible coalitions in specific areas, which will be time-consuming and increases the risk of political failure on contentious issues.