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European Union conservatives set to endorse Ursula von der Leyen as bloc’s next chief executive


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. File
| Photo Credit: Reuters

The European Union’s (EU) leading political umbrella group, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), is set to back European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on March 7 for a second term running the bloc’s powerful executive.

A former German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen steered the European Commission over the last five years through the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine and a related energy crunch in Europe.

The first woman ever to hold the influential job, she saw Britain out of the bloc, put into law more ambitious climate and environment policies, and oversaw new joint EU spending on energy, health and post-pandemic economic recovery.

If reappointed by leaders of the EU’s 27 member countries, she will have another term charting the bloc’s policies on everything from big tech and state aid to Chinese investment screening and sanctions against Russia.

Currently seen as a clear favourite for the job, Ms. Von der Leyen would begin a new term as Europe looks to strengthen its defence and security while Russia wages war on its borders and Donald Trump eyes a return to the White House.

Ms. Von der Leyen is the only candidate in the EPP vote on Thursday, which marks a stepping stone towards what seems like her likely reappointment.

EPP delegates cast votes from 08.15 GMT with results due from 10.15. Ms. Von der Leyen needs an absolute majority to win, something the head of the EPP said on Wednesday was bound to happen. “We stand behind Ursula von der Leyen,” said Manfred Weber.

“Europe is tested in this moment of time. We are facing a lot of challenges,” he said. “We vote against extremists and please vote for the serious centre, the biggest party,” the European People’s Party.”

Despite a rise in far-right and populist parties in the bloc, the EPP has kept a clear lead among other political groups ahead of the June European Parliament election, according to opinion polls.

The biggest hurdle for Ms. von der Leyen to win a second term might be clearing a vote in the new European Parliament, where eurosceptics are expected to win more seats. That might force the Commission head to seek votes beyond the broad traditional political centre, possibly at the price of specific policies.



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