The head of the new EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, faces her toughest job ever, the Brussels correspondent of German conservative daily Die Welt writes in a commentary.
“One thing is certain: Von der Leyen is facing the toughest job of her political career”, Christoph B. Schlitz writes. “Her latest posting as [Germany’s] defense minister was a piece of cake both in physical and political demands compared to her new one in Berlaymont [the building that serves as the headquarters for the European Commission in Brussels].
She must simultaneously serve as a pragmatic visionary, a tireless fighter against partial interests, and an always-on machine churning out compromises. The conditions for her job are significantly more difficult than were those of her predecessors, Jean-Claude Juncker and José Manuel Barroso, for several reasons.
First, the new president of the European Commission can no longer rely on the steady majority of the European People’s Party and the Social Democrats.
She must instead seek much more flexible coalitions that will possibly also need the occasional cooperation of right-wing populists. This alone could preclude the swift accomplishment of her goals.
Second, Von der Leyen is wedged between her two deputies, Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, who are two quite self-sufficient alpha politicians with strong wills. Both of them believe that they would be better presidents of the European Commission and both want to be top candidates at the next EU elections. They will try to position themselves accordingly.
The third issue has to do with French President Emmanuel Macron, who keeps haunting Von der Leyen. In July, he fashioned himself as the kingmaker of the new Commission president – even though the choice was a compromise between Merkel and Macron – and is now expecting recompenses.
Macron said Von der Leyen was “Europe’s new face” with someone who would open “a new chapter”. But what chapter will that be exactly?
Title image: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.