After the European elections, Ursula von der Leyen does everything to keep her presidency of the Commission

The European People’s Party (right-wing, EPP) came out on top in the European elections with 186 seats out of 720. Its candidate for the post of President of the Commission is the current incumbent, Ursula von der Leyen. But she will have to convince both those outside her own camp in the European Parliament and the heads of state and government in the Council.

Because the future head of the Commission needs a double green light, with her nomination by the European Council first, then the final approval of the European Parliament with an absolute majority of at least 361 votes. However, this decision is part of the major interinstitutional negotiation to also appoint the President of the European Council, the head of European diplomacy and other posts.

In Italy, there is a dream of replacing Von der Leyen with the former President of the ECB, Mario Draghi. It would have the great advantage of overcoming divisions while making a gift within the Council, without seeming to do so, to the far-right head of government Giorgia Meloni. The Social Democrats are pushing for the former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa to the presidency of the Council, replacing the liberal Charles Michel, while the Poles would like to put their minister Radoslaw Sikorski at the head of European diplomacy.

A large but fragile majority

For the moment, the President of the Commission is working to rebuild the outgoing majority coalition in the European Parliament. The right (EPP), the Social Democrats (S & D) and the liberals of Renew represent 400 seats between them. This would be an important signal to the heads of state and government who thought she was more contested within the Parliament.

But Ursula von der Leyen will have to reassure many MEPs who were scalded by her outstretched hands during the campaign towards the Italian far-right elected representatives of Giorgia Meloni. “Like a more general movement in the European Union with an increasing alliance between the right and the far right”, notes the leader of the rebellious MEPs Manon Aubry. On the evening of June 9, the President of the Commission promised to “block the extremes”. But some votes could be missing, like those of the Republicans, who are members of the EPP, and the German Liberals. To the point that Ursula von der Leyen is trying to convince the German Greens to form a pragmatic alliance.

His quest for votes could be helped by the concern raised on Tuesday by the call by the populist head of the Hungarian government Viktor Orban to merge the two far-right groups in the European Parliament, the Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy. This would potentially result in a Eurosceptic group of up to 157 elected members. That would be the second largest force in the chamber.

The president of the EPP, Bavarian Manfred Weber, called for support for Ursula von der Leyen. A stone in the garden of Emmanuel Macron weakened by the RN in France and who had pushed him aside from the presidency of the Commission in 2019 in favor of… Ursula von der Leyen. A political blow also against his fellow social democrat Olaf Scholz whose government coalition emerged weakened from the elections.

But the S&D and Renew are focusing mainly on the project and a “pro-European” line where the aim is “not to destroy the Green Deal” while the EPP had failed to deliver on several important climate texts at the end of the last term. “They had given in to the far right on this aspect,” believes Manon Aubry (LFI). On such a broad basis, several other names could appear.

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