Ursula von der Leyen endorsed by EU's largest party in bid for second term as head of commission

  • Ursula von der Leyen, the current head of the European Commission, received an endorsement from the European People’s Party for a second term.
  • The endorsement took place during a meeting in Bucharest ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections.
  • Von der Leyen’s reappointment still requires approval from EU member states’ leaders.

The European Union’s largest political party on Thursday endorsed Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for a second five-year term at the helm of the bloc’s powerful Commission.

Von der Leyen ’s nomination at a gathering of her center-right European People’s Party in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, comes ahead of June 6-9 elections for the European Parliament, the EU’s only democratically elected institution. The endorsement places her firmly as a frontrunner for the top job in the 27-nation bloc.

The EPP is expected to remain the biggest in the bloc’s legislature after the June voting, but von der Leyen’s posting would still require approval from leaders of the EU’s member states. Almost half of the EU’s 27 national leaders are members of the EPP.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN ANNOUNCES BID FOR SECOND TERM AS HEAD OF EUROPEAN UNION COMMISSION

As the two-day EPP meeting came to a close Thursday, von der Leyen warned of the expected rise of populists in the bloc’s upcoming elections and Russia’s attempt “to wipe Ukraine off the face of (the) earth.”

Ursula von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the EPP Congress in Bucharest, Romania, on March 7, 2024. The European Union’s largest political party on Thursday endorsed Von der Leyen’s bid for a second five-year term at the helm of the bloc’s powerful Commission. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

“Our peaceful and united Europe is being challenged like never before by populists, by nationalists, by demagogues, whether it’s the far right or it’s the far left,” she said. “The names may be different, but the goal is the same. They want to trample on our values and they want to destroy our Europe … the EPP will never let that happen.”

Since von der Leyen was elected in 2019 as the Commission’s executive representing the EU’s 450 million citizens, she has steered the bloc through a series of crises. These include Britain’s exit from the EU, the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She has also pushed a Green Deal aiming to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050.

Von der Leyen noted Europe’s push to reduce its dependence on Russian energy after President Vladimir Putin ordered the war in Ukraine two years ago.

“We have resisted Putin’s blackmail with its dirty coal, oil and gas. We got rid of this dependency,” she said. “We are massively investing in clean energy. For the first time we produced more electricity from wind and sun in Europe than from gas. This creates good jobs here at home, drives prices down and cleans up pollution. And it gives us energy security.”

In 2022, wind and solar generated a record 22% of EU’s electricity, for the first time overtaking fossil gas at 20% and remaining above coal power at 16%, according to a recent review by Ember, an energy think tank.

The EU’s executive branch, with around 32,000 staff, is responsible for proposing laws on policies ranging from agriculture, energy and health to transport. It oversees whether member countries are respecting the rules underpinning the world’s biggest trading bloc. The commission also acts as a powerful anti-trust regulator to ensure fair competition across Europe.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION CHIEF URSULA VON DER LEYEN ASSURES AID TO FLOOD-STRICKEN SLOVENIA DURING VISIT

In recent years, the Commission has gained significant powers, notably in leading the EU’s combined effort to secure vaccines for almost half a billion European citizens during the pandemic and in dealing with the economic fallout of the measures to combat the spread of the disease.

A member of von der Leyen’s team, Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit from Luxembourg, was chosen last weekend in Rome as the lead candidate for the second largest grouping in the assembly, the Socialists and Democrats.

Neither von der Leyen nor Schmit will run for seats in the June elections.

Among the other groups that have finalized nominations, German EU lawmaker Terry Reintke and her Dutch counterpart Bas Eickhout will lead the Greens ticket, and Austrian politician Walter Baier will stand for the Party of the European Left.

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