EU summit: Von der Leyen enters final sprint in race for top job

EU summit: Von der Leyen enters final sprint in race for top job
EU summit: Von der Leyen enters final sprint in race for top job

For Ursula von der Leyen, the fight for a second term as head of the EU Commission has so far gone without any major problems. However, a mistake in the next few weeks could ruin everything.

Following her nomination by the European heads of state and government, Ursula von der Leyen is entering the final stretch of her race for a second term as President of the EU Commission. In order to keep her top post for another five years, the German politician must win the support of a majority of members of the new EU Parliament in the next few weeks.

The informal alliance that forms her European party family EPP with the Social Democrats (S&D) and Liberals (Renew) theoretically has a comfortable majority of around 400 of the 720 votes. However, it is considered possible that some MPs will deviate from the party line in the secret ballot and not vote for the German. The vote is currently scheduled to take place on July 18. If von der Leyen fails in the vote, the heads of state and government of the EU states would have to nominate another candidate.

The next few weeks are crucial

After her nomination at the EU summit in Brussels on Friday, von der Leyen announced that she wanted to talk to various parties and groups in the European Parliament in the coming weeks. It was important to her that they were pro-European, pro-Ukrainian and pro-rule of law, she said. Chancellor Olaf Scholz was confident that von der Leyen would be elected. “The president does have a very good reputation in parliament,” said the SPD politician after the meeting.

Von der Leyen could get additional votes primarily from Green MPs. The former European Green leader and outgoing German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer recently called on his party colleagues to support her re-election, arguing that the package negotiated by Scholz and other leading European heads of state and government to fill the top EU posts after the European elections was the best they could get.

Former Portuguese head of government secures top EU job

In addition to the nomination of von der Leyen, the package also includes the decision that the social democratic former Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa will be the next President of the European Council and that the Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will be appointed as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Costa will then be responsible for preparing the EU summits and chairing the working sessions as the successor to the Belgian Charles Michel. Kallas would succeed the Spaniard Josep Borrell after the new EU Commission has been confirmed by Parliament.

The presidency of the EU Commission is by far the most important position. The incumbent is responsible for around 32,000 employees who, among other things, make proposals for new EU laws. In addition, the Commission President sits at the table as the EU representative at almost all major international summits such as the G7 or G20.

Openness to the right is a point of attack

The talks will not be easy for von der Leyen, especially because she and her party family, the EPP, did not rule out cooperation with the right-wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) during the election campaign. Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, was therefore cautious about possible support on Friday. “It is in Ursula von der Leyen’s hands to form a pro-European and stable majority for her re-election in Parliament,” he said.

Andresen’s colleague Michael Bloss said the Greens were ready to take responsibility for Europe, as a majority of “anti-Europeans” would mean an ice age for a strong Europe. Von der Leyen, however, must commit more clearly to the so-called Green Deal, which is intended to ensure that the EU’s climate protection goals are achieved.

Right-wing populists complain

However, it could be helpful for von der Leyen that Meloni abstained from the vote on Friday night and then complained loudly about the fact that she was left out of the preliminary negotiations on the personnel package. Chancellor Scholz, on the other hand, made it clear that he believes the latter is correct. He is convinced that it is a good thing if parties from right-wing populist party families are not the basis of support for von der Leyen, he said. In doing so, he also included the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is the only one to vote against von der Leyen at the EU summit.

Source: Stern

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