Ursula von der Leyen wants to be reinstated as president of the European Commission

George Marinescu
English Section / 20 februarie

Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: facebook / European Commission)

Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: facebook / European Commission)

Versiunea în limba română

CDU proposes that Ursula von der Leyen be the Spitzenkandidatin of the EPP for the European Parliament elections in June PPE will decide by vote at the Congress on March 6-7 in Bucharest Ursula von der Leyen's first mandate, marked by controversial decisions, among the most important being the Green Deal and the purchase of anti-Covid vaccines

Ursula von der Leyen wants a new mandate as president of the European Commission, according to the statement made yesterday by her lordship during the press conference held alongside Friedrich Merz, the president of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), the political party that proposed her on the current head of the Community Executive as the Spitzenkandidatin (head of the list) of the European People's Party, a proposal that would be approved at the PPE Congress that will take place on March 6 and 7 in Bucharest.

Ursula von der Leyen said: "I am making a conscious and thoughtful decision today: I want to run for a new mandate. The world is totally different from five years ago. (...) We must continue to defend ourselves against those who divide us internally and externally, we must strengthen ourselves (...), is the objective I have set for myself".

The appointment as head of the list of the EPP has nothing to do with a candidacy for the European Parliament elections, because von der Leyen is not a candidate in this sense, but she will be proposed by the European populists for the position of President of the Commission in case the political formation will win the elections in early June. According to practice, the candidate of the political group in the European Parliament who obtains the most votes in the European Parliament elections has the first chance to become the president of the European Commission. With the polls putting the EPP in first place, Ursula von der Leyen is well placed to get another mandate.

However, her appointment could be the result of more difficult negotiations in the European Parliament than in 2019, because the polls conducted in the European Union states show that an alliance in the European Parliament between the progressive political groups (the populists, the socialists, the Greens and Renew) might be more difficult to achieve this time due to the rise in popularity of conservative and far-right parties, but still the latter will not be able to prevent the formation of a majority of the former.

However, Ursula von der Leyen could have difficulties in the European Parliament and in obtaining the votes of right-wing groups, skeptical of the environmental agenda included in the Green Deal, a pact that she strongly supported in the current mandate.

The current president of the European Commission could also be in trouble because of her leadership style, as on a number of sensitive topics, from her support for Israel in its war against Hamas to her policy towards China, Ursula von der Leyen took decisions without consulting member states, angering European diplomats and sometimes even their own commissioners.

Von der Leyen still has to face those who accuse her of involvement in the so-called Pfizergate scandal, regarding the negotiation via WhatsApp messages with Albert Bourla, CEO of the Pfizer company, of the contract regarding the purchase of anti-Covid vaccines. Following this negotiation, which was revealed by the American publication New York Times, the European Commission concluded in May 2021 a purchase contract from the Pfizer company for 2.4 billion doses of the anti-Covid vaccine worth 35 billion dollars. Because President von der Leyen refused to present the content of the messages exchanged with Albert Bourla, the New York Times sued the European Commission.

In relation to this case, the European Ombudsman also pronounced in his report for the year 2022, in which he accuses the lack of transparency of the European Commission regarding the respective messages.

Following the accusations also made by some MEPs, the European Public Prosecutor's Office, led by Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruţa Kovesi, announced in September 2022 the opening of a criminal case in rem, in which investigations were carried out regarding the facts, but so far the institution based in Luxembourg he has not provided any more information regarding the status of the criminal investigation and has not issued any resolution, although it will soon be a year and a half since he acknowledged the opening of this case.

Moreover, a Belgian lobbyist, Frederic Baldan, sued Ursula von der Leyen at the beginning of last year, accusing her of abuse of office and embezzlement, because she negotiated on behalf of Belgium the amount of vaccines on which was to be acquired by the respective state. The file opened following Baldan's request got bogged down in the Belgian courts in the midst of jurisdictional declines from one court to another or from one prosecutor's office to another.

Although attention to this case has so far been limited to Brussels circles, yet a court is expected to rule on the purchase of anti-Covid vaccines negotiated by Ursula von der Leyen. If there is an unfavorable court ruling this year, that ruling will have major implications for Ursula von der Leyen's bid to renew her mandate as president of the European Commission.

However, it is hard to believe that the respective files will be completed in the course of 2024 by the courts in which they are located, and as for the file pending before the European Public Prosecutor's Office, it seems that things will stagnate as long as von der Leyen is at the controls order of the European Commission.

Regarding a future mandate at the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced as early as Saturday, at the Munich Security Conference, that she wants to establish the position of European Commissioner for Defense, and the person who will occupy this position would follow to deal with the strengthening of European defense and the increase of military production, both for the needs of the EU and to further help Ukraine in the war with Russia.

To receive a second mandate as President of the Community Executive, von der Leyen must be nominated by European leaders and confirmed by a vote of the European Parliament. We remind you that, five years ago, when she was supported by a coalition of the European People's Party with the European Socialists and the Renew Europe group, Ursula von der Leyen became president of the European Commission with a majority of only nine votes, receiving 383 votes for. With the predicted rise of the far right in the next European Parliament election, it is not known whether a coalition of the big three pro-European parties would have enough votes to support her again.

Meanwhile, von der Leyen will have to abide by a set of rules governing campaigning for an EU mandate while remaining a Commission official, which could prove a dangerous balancing act. According to campaign rules for European Commissioners, Ursula von der Leyen will have to create separate social media accounts, make a clear distinction between statements made as President of the European Commission and as a candidate, and will not be able to use campaign no resources of the Community Executive.

President Iohannis and the Romanian liberals support von der Leyen's candidacy

In an official message posted on the X network (formerly Twitter), President Klaus Iohannis welcomed the CDU's decision to nominate Ursula von der Leyen for a new mandate as President of the European Commission and stated that he is "confident in her ability to strengthen the unity and strategic influence of the EU, finding reliable solutions for all member states and all citizens".

The President of the PNL, Nicolae Ciucă, also welcomed the announcement made by von der Leyen regarding the candidacy for a new mandate and claimed that the current President of the European Commission "has demonstrated that she can manage complicated crises and that she can find the best solutions for all member states EU".

For his part, the European deputy Siegfried Mureşan, vice-president of the EPP, declared on the official Facebook page: "I am convinced that, in the Congress in Bucharest, the EPP will be united and give a clear vote to support Ursula von der Leyen as a candidate . The President of the European Commission, supported by our political family, ends a mandate with significant positive results, despite the major crises she had to manage, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war started by Russia in Ukraine. Among the successes of the current European Commission are: the adoption of the European Recovery and Resilience Mechanism - the largest investment plan in the history of the European Union and from which our country receives almost 30 billion euros; reducing energy dependence on the Russian Federation and starting accession negotiations with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine".

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