European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shows the hand from which voters and journalists are supposed to eat. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS


Von der Leyen’s ‘reluctance to debate damages democracy’


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been criticised by the European Greens group over her aversion to debate.

Von der Leyen is known to keep critical journalists at arm’s length and, some claim, does the same with voters. The last major election she took part in was in 2013.

For the upcoming European Parliament elections in June, she also seems keen to stay out of the fray.

“Von der Leyen failing to participate in debates would be damaging European democracy,” the Greens said in a statement.

The first of such discussions will be in Maastricht on April 29, marking the third edition of the Maastricht debate. There, leading candidates will talk about their visions of the future of Europe and reply to questions from the audience.

In the past, politicians eyeing a role with the EC, such Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt and Frans Timmermans, have all taken part in the debate.

Von der Leyen does not seem to have indicated much enthusiasm to follow in their footsteps.

She “has so far failed to confirm her participation in this cornerstone of European democracy. Ursula Von der Leyen is notably absent from the list of confirmed participants with the date of the debate fast approaching”, the Greens said.

Bas Eickhout, lead candidate for the European Green Party, will take part and has challenged the current EC President to do the same.

“Ursula Von der Leyen is claiming to defend European democracy, yet she has refused to run in the European Parliament elections and has failed to clarify whether she will participate in any of the election debates,” he said.

“European citizens deserve to know which plans and ideas their leaders have for the future of Europe. Debating these ideas and being accountable is a cornerstone of European democracy.

“Why is Von der Leyen hiding instead of defending her position? Especially with EPP actively undermining key legislation such as the Green Deal, we expect Von der Leyen to show up and be held accountable on the issues she once championed,” Eickhout said.

Despite Von der Leyen being the European People’s Party (EPP) lead candidate to succeed herself as head of the EC, European citizens only have an indirect say over the matter; the decision will be made by the 27 Member State leaders.

Following the vote, the EP will only be able to approve, or reject, the decision.