Von der Leyen to seek second mandate at helm of EU’s executive arm

Ursula von der Leyen has finally announced her bid to become the European People’s Party lead candidate for the upcoming European elections

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will seek a second term after June's European elections
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will seek a second term after June's European elections

Ursula von der Leyen has finally made up her mind and will seek a second five-year mandate as European Commission president.

The former German defence minister announced on Monday her bid to become the lead candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) for the upcoming European elections in June.

Von der Leyen made the announcement during a press conference at an event of her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Berlin.

The announcement puts paid to months of speculation in which she evaded answering questions about her future.

“I ran in 2019 because I firmly believe in Europe… when the question came up whether I could imagine becoming President of the European Commission, I immediately said yes intuitively. Today, five years later, I am making a very conscious decision,” she said after the announcement.

Her choice as commission chief after European elections in June is however not automatic and will depend on what EU leaders decide. Five years ago, EU leaders had ignored the lead candidate system, which is not binding, and opted for Von der Leyen instead of Manfred Weber, who was the EPP’s lead candidate.

Von der Leyen was the first woman to occupy the post of European Commission president and steered the bloc through a worldwide pandemic and the first major conflict on European soil in decades.

Last December, EU leaders decided to politically open accession talks with Ukraine on her Commission’s recommendation.

She is credited for being decisive but her tough style has sometimes put her at odds with EU governments.

Von der Leyen came under fire for her support to Israel in its war against Hamas last November, a position that put her in direct conflict with the more nuanced approach of the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

She has also been implicated in what has been billed as the Pfizergate scandal. Von der Leyen had exchanged texts with the pharmaceutical company’s CEO Albert Bourla to strike an enormous vaccine deal in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case led the New York Times to sue the Commission, for its failure to provide access to these texts. A court is expected to rule on the legal battle in 2024.

Von der Leyen will have to be formally nominated as her party’s lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat during the EPP’s electoral congress in Romania on March 6 and 7.

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