What are the chances of von der Leyen succeeding herself as President of the European Commission?

At a meeting of her CDU party in Berlin on Monday, Ursula von der Leyen will announce her intention for a second term as president of the European Commission on behalf of the European People's Party (EPP). There is no serious challenger because von der Leyen offers a guarantee of stability, writes De Standaard.

Not since the recently deceased Frenchman Jacques Delors has a Commission president been so influential and decisive. Not only has her fluent English made her the face of the EU, but she has also stood her ground in unprecedentedly difficult moments.

During the pandemic, with French Commissioner Thierry Breton, von der Leyen ensured the rapid joint procurement of vaccines and launched a 750 billion euro economic recovery fund. She also set the tone for Europe's response to Russian aggression in Ukraine with her sanctions policy. She succeeded in getting key legislation on the Green Deal through the European Parliament and Council.

But before she can build on this success, von der Leyen faces three hurdles after the European elections. The EPP must remain the largest group in the European Parliament to claim the presidency of the Commission. The European Council must then nominate her candidate to the European Parliament.

Nevertheless, von der Leyen offers a guarantee of stability. Her EPP will likely have 13 of the 27 prime ministers and heads of state in the European Council by June. The CDU is not part of the coalition in Berlin, but "Chancellor Olaf Scholz cannot afford to give up the most powerful position in the EU for party political reasons," says a European source.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sánchez are very supportive. Only Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban opposes a second term, but he cannot block her alone.

She has more to fear from the European Parliament, where von der Leyen narrowly won a majority in 2019. According to polls, the far-right parties and the ECR will be the big winners at the expense of the Liberals and Greens. It is, therefore, no coincidence that in recent months, von der Leyen has actively sought closer ties with Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d'Italia) on the issue of migration.

Her response to the farmers' protests and the withdrawal of the proposal to reduce the use of pesticides by 50 per cent by 2030 are weighing heavily on the social democrats and greens. "Asking the European Parliament to start dismantling the Green Deal now is not the best signal," says Sara Matthieu, MEP for the Greens.

In addition, von der Leyen will have to consider the more conservative stance of the EPP group on climate policy and the predicted shift to the right in the next European Parliament. Her real problem, it is rumoured, will be that her working majority will be narrower and more fragile.

Therefore, the focus in her second term is expected to be on European companies' competitiveness, support for industry and agriculture to achieve the green transition, security and the development of a European defence (industry). These are the main points of the party programme that the EPP will adopt at its meeting in Bucharest on 6 and 7 March. They will also be priorities in the European Council's strategic agenda for the next Commission.

Von der Leyen already knows which way the wind is blowing and said at the Munich Security Conference last weekend that she intends to appoint someone specifically responsible for defence in the next Commission. She also announced that the European Commission is working on a new plan to make Europe more militarily resilient and independent of the United States. It will present a proposal for such a military-industrial strategy within three weeks. There are also plans for a defence innovation agency in Ukraine.



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