The EPP leans to the right and forces von der Leyen to strike a balance

The EPP leans to the right and forces von der Leyen to strike a balance

Brussels · WhyAt the congress held this week in Bucharest (Romania), the European People's Party (EPP) announced Ursula von der Leyen as its candidate for the European elections scheduled for June 9 with an overwhelming majority. 400 votes in favor and only 89 votes against. But in light of this apparent large unity behind the current president of the European Commission, there is a conservative family that strongly criticizes the work of the German leader's government and calls for a shift to the right to prevent them from escaping votes to the extreme. The right configurations, especially on environmental and migration issues. This obliges von der Leyen to make more balances to obtain the support of the European Parliament and state governments as disparate as the support of Emmanuel Macron, Pedro Sánchez, Olaf Scholz, or Giorgia Meloni.

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The sector's loudest critic of von der Leyen is the head of the European People's Party himself, fellow German Manfred Weber, who has been one of the strongest voices against one of the EU executive's most prominent initiatives, the ambitious Green Plan. After a wave of farmer protests across the European Union, the conservative leader had no choice but to surrender to pressure from her party and back away from some anti-climate change initiatives. Indeed, as indicated in the manifesto approved on Thursday in which the EPP presents itself in the election, von der Leyen is doomed to campaign against the package of environmental measures that she herself promoted.

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However, this change in position could jeopardize the support von der Leyen needs in the European Parliament, which must ratify the European Commission president proposed by member states. The German is not satisfied with her party's votes and must also obtain the votes of an important part of the progressive wing of the European Chamber if she wants to reactivate her mandate.

We must remember that in 2019 the European Parliament endorsed her as President of the European Commission at least. He received 374 votes – only nine more than required – in the secret ballot, even though the three main parliamentary groups that openly supported him (the European People's Party, the Social Democrats, and the Liberals) totaled 444 votes.

Moreover, polls this year predict better results for the far right and a setback for the Social Democrats and liberals. In other words, von der Leyen's European parliamentary majority will not be so clear, and the German leader cannot manipulate it. For this reason, the European Commission president now fears that progressive and liberal MEPs will think twice before von der Leyen shifts to the right, even if such a shift is imposed by the EPP.

Now the German wants to recover in terms of health and has already opened (a little with a small mouth) the door to agreeing with far-right formations as long as they are not supportive of Vladimir Putin's regime or against NATO. This means, especially in Germany, Meloni's party, which opinion polls predict will do very well in the next elections. This way, if some social democratic and liberal votes fail, he will be able to replace them with far-right votes.

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Good relationship with the leaders of the four major countries

Although von der Leyen would need the approval of the European Parliament, member states actually elect the president of the European Commission. That is why his internal arch-enemy, also Conservative Weber, was not crowned head of the community executive in 2019. In the end, von der Leyen, who did not present herself as a candidate, was the winner.

The support of Macron, as well as Merkel or the acting Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, was essential for the former German Defense Minister to end up leading Brussels. This summer, the appointment of leaders of the European partners will be crucial again.

In this sense, von der Leyen has tied things up well again. She remains Macron's favorite candidate, and gets along well with Meloni, who has received all the honors from the start despite being from the far right. They understood each other perfectly on immigration, and Brussels – and the EU as a whole – adapted to the anti-immigration rhetoric and policies of the new Italian executive. It is also natural that he has the support of his country, Germany, even though his party is now in opposition. Surprisingly, he also had a very good relationship with Sánchez and at all times avoided, for example, criticizing the amnesty law despite pressure from the Spanish People's Party. Therefore, von der Leyen already has the support of the governments of the four major EU countries, which are largely on the right track.

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