Commentary EU

Von der Leyen is fair and emotionless

After weeks of speculation and uncertainty, Ursula von der Leyen has indicated what her attitude towards Central and Eastern Europe will be during her EC presidency.

Not much is known about how Ursula von der Leyen will lead the European Commission in the next five years. Nevertheless, we have already learned in advance from the Czech media that the joy over the new head of the European Commission is not appropriate. Some media called von der Leyen a "Frans Timmermans wearing skirts", others pointed out that the ODS MEPs would not vote for her because her ideas about the functioning of the EU are contrary to the ODS program and the interests of the Czech Republic.

Only in the last few days, especially in interviews for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Bild and other media from last week, von der Leyen has indicated what she will do and what relationship she will develop with the Eastern part of the EU. Certainly, everyone tries to seem helpful after an election, and if Timmermans passed through the vote, he would likely show himself in a nice light as well. But what Timmermans would do is only a matter of “if”. The real Chairman of the EC, however, says things that can be compared with reality in the future.

Especially two of the three points von der Leyen made are worth the attention. Firstly, von der Leyen calls for an understanding of the Central and Eastern European states as well as for their rule of law deficits (saying that "no one is perfect"), which will please Poland and Hungary. Secondly, she calls for greater flexibility towards indebted Italy, which will please the local government, ostracized within the EU. Thirdly, von der Leyen does not want to be bound by the requirement that all EU Member States should participate in the reception of refugees.

Daniel Brössler, the Süddeutsche Zeitung commentator, summed up that von der Leyen chose a conciliatory tone for conflicting topics. It can be speculated that von der Leyen´s tone is some kind of a return service for her approval as the head of the EC given that she would have no chance without the support of the deputies for the Polish PiS and the Italian Five Star Movement. Of course, we can, for example, ask, what does it mean when von der Leyen says that “we have to prosecute the smugglers”? Does she consider the Sea-Watch captain Rackete a smuggler who deserves to be prosecuted or a rescuer who rather deserves a Nobel Peace Prize?

We will see. But before any of the assumptions prove to be right, von der Leyen is certainly trying to be helpful, which is something that differs her from Frans Timmermans quite strongly.

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