EU: Ursula von der Leyen, towards a delicate second term

At a summit in Brussels, the bloc’s 27 national leaders also chose former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa to chair European Council meetings, and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to become the bloc’s next foreign policy chief.

Italy reportedly voted against

The trio of leaders represents continuity at the top of the European Union. The pro-EU centrist factions are holding on to the top posts despite the surge of the far right in the European Parliament elections on 9 June 2024. However, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni abstained from voting on Ms von der Leyen and voted against Mr Costa and Ms Kallas, according to diplomatic sources. On her X account, she said she had decided not to support the list of leaders “out of respect for citizens and the indications they provided during the elections”.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, another far-right supporter, is also believed to have voted against von der Leyen and did not vote for Kaja Kallas.

The appointments still need to be approved by the European Parliament in a secret ballot, which is generally considered a more delicate phase than approval by EU leaders.

Security, strategic axis

At the summit, the EU also signed a security agreement with Ukraine, discussed how to strengthen the EU’s defences against Russia and approved the bloc’s strategic priorities for the next five years.

The agreement sets out the EU’s commitments to help Ukraine in nine areas of security policy, including arms deliveries, military training, defence industry cooperation and mine clearance. These commitments are concrete proof of Brussels’ unwavering determination to support kyiv in the long term. Europeans are determined to do everything to ensure that Russia does not prevail and that Ukraine recovers the lands annexed by Moscow.

What is certain is that the Old Continent must dig deep into its pockets to strengthen its security. Between 1999 and 2021, the EU increased its defence spending by 20%, compared to 600% for China and 300% for Russia, even before Moscow’s massive increase in military spending after its invasion of Ukraine in 2022. To reduce this gap, a €500 billion defence envelope over the next ten years is needed.

Defence investment is part of the EU’s strategic agenda for the period 2024-2029. It also includes a more competitive EU to resist economic pressure from China and the United States, as well as preparing the Union for enlargement to Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans. By then, the physiognomy of our northern neighbour will change considerably. This will not happen without risk for Tunisia.

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