Wednesday April 17, 2024

Von der Leyen to seek second term as EC president

Published : 20 Feb 2024, 00:03

  By dpa correspondents
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, attends the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) Federal Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has informed members of her conservative party in Germany that she is seeking a second term in one of Europe's most powerful posts, sources told dpa.

She became the first women to lead the European Union's executive when she was elected to the post in 2019, a job which places her in charge of about 32,000 EU employees as well as much of the bloc's political agenda.

At a meeting on Monday in Berlin, Von der Leyen told German colleagues from her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party that she was looking forward to the joint campaign ahead of elections for the European Parliament in June.

A public announcement was expected later Monday.

As European Commission president, she frequently represents the bloc at almost all major international summits such as the G7 and G20. The US magazine "Forbes" recently named von der Leyen the "most powerful woman in the world."

Von der Leyen's four years at the helm of the European Commission have been marked by the war in Ukraine - which saw the EU provide lethal military aid for the first time in its history - and the Covid-19 pandemic.

She also wields significant influence over EU trade, competition and environmental policy, and has backed efforts to make the bloc climate-neutral by 2050.

Before becoming European Commission president, von der Leyen held a series of ministerial posts under former German chancellor Angela Merkel, including family, labour and defence.

In Brussels, she is a member of the affiliated centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Von der Leyen, 65, is widely expected to be elected as the EPP's top candidate for the upcoming elections at the EPP party congress on March 7, although it remains unclear whether she will face any challengers.

The EPP also includes the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), Forward Italy (Forza Italia) of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and Spain's conservative People's Party (PP).

Some members of the European Parliament remain sceptical of von der Leyen, in part because she was nominated for the post in 2019 by the leaders of EU countries despite not having stood as a lead candidate in the European elections.

Von der Leyen, a trained physician and the mother of seven, was relatively unknown outside Germany when she was catapulted to the top job in 2019. She had once been viewed as a potential successor for Merkel in Germany.

She has a reputation as a workaholic and is known for sleeping in the commission's Brussels headquarters, instead of renting an apartment like her predecessors.

Sources told dpa that von der Leyen's upcoming election campaign will focus on promoting EU economic competitiveness and more coordinated EU defence policy.

She has recently taken steps toward potentially cracking down on low-priced Chinese electric vehicles, which allegedly receive huge Chinese subsidies.

She declared over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference that she would appoint a EU commissioner for defence if she remains in her post as president.