European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (L) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and faction leader Friedrich Merz pose after announcing her bid to run for a second term as EU Commission president. EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER


Von der Leyen targets second run as European Commission President


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been chosen by her German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to be their lead candidate in June’s European election and also their preferred pick for a second term in the top post. It is highly likely she will be endorsed by the whole of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), of which the CDU is the largest component, as its candidate for EC President. She is thus the favourite to retain the position.

During a CDU party conference on February 19, she pledged to boost defence spending, business competitiveness and “green” policies, in that order, over the next five years.

“In these five years, not only has my passion for Europe grown but also, of course, my experience of how much this Europe can do for its people,” von der Leyen said.

She said that five years ago, she intuitively said “yes” but that now she was making “a very conscious and well-considered decision”.

“I want to run for a second term,” she said.

“We must defend against divisions from within and from outside. I am sure that we have the strength to do so, and that is the task that I have set for myself.”

Markus Söder, leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, said on X: “She is the natural top candidate for the Union in the European elections.

“She has shown leadership over the past five years and led Europe well through crises. The CSU will support them vigorously.”

Söder stressed that von der Leyen would “form a strong duo” with CSU vice-president and EPP leader Manfred Weber, the man who tanked her Green Deal after leading a popular revolt against it.

Typically, the European party family member who does the best in the European elections gets appointed to lead the EC. In the polls thus far, the EPP has a definite lead for the European votes.

The nomination ends speculation about Von der Leyen’s future – her name was also floating around regarding the next head of NATO. That ambition was reportedly shot down by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Scholz told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken he was “categorically against” Von der Leyen becoming the next Secretary-General of the Western military alliance, according to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

He reportedly felt Von der Leyen had been “too critical” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, something that could “prove to be a disadvantage in the long term”.

The German traffic-light coalition Government [Socialists, Greens and Liberals] supports her candidacy to lead the EC again – an alternative EPP top candidate might “come from abroad” and not best serve German interests.

Green Party MEPs, though, criticised the move. Terry Reintke, co-president of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament and herself a leading candidate in June, highlighted the EPP’s crucial role in the upcoming elections.

“Will the EPP align with forces undermining climate protection and democracy or work with pro-democratic forces for a secure, sustainable future in Europe?,” she queried.

Bas Eickhout, her Green colleague, urged clarity on the strength of the EPP’s commitment to the Green Deal.

“The EPP and Von der Leyen must show dedication to the Green Deal or persist in slowing it down.

“Voters need clear answers as member states address crucial challenges, including climate-neutral modernisation, economic competitiveness, social infrastructure investment, and the fight against autocrats and the far right,” he said.

ECR MEP Michiel Hoogeveen was more forthright, calling Von der Leyen “a klutz”, who “makes a mess everywhere she goes”.

“She brought us: The expensive, unnecessary corona recovery fund, slow and shady vaccine procurement, the disastrous Green Deal, open borders, relaxed budget rules, and less free trade,” he said.

“She chairs a secretariat but acts like an empress. While as European Commissioner she should guard the EU Treaties, she constantly encourages them to be opened up. To attract more power to its European Commission.

“Time to put a stop to this fanatical EU federalist,” Hoogeveen concluded.