BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition will not collapse over European Union leaders’ choice of Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen to head the European Commission, senior Social Democrat (SPD) Katarina Barley said on Wednesday.
But Barley, who led the German SPD’s campaign for elections to the European Parliament in May, told the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk she did not expect European lawmakers from her left-leaning party to back von der Leyen, a member of Merkel’s conservative CDU party, in a confirmation vote.
Von der Leyen, Germany’s defence minister and a Merkel ally, needs to be confirmed in her new job by an absolute majority of EU lawmakers, and may hit resistance in an assembly aggrieved that EU leaders ignored the lead candidates from the main parliamentary blocs in their horse-trading over top posts.
Former SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has called von der Leyen’s nomination an “unprecedented act of political trickery”, and the move has again strained the coalition in Berlin, a loveless alliance between Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD that has already come close to collapsing at least twice.
Barley, who was German justice minister until last month, told Deutschlandfunk: “The coalition in Berlin won’t fail over this.”
But with reference to the SPD’s EU lawmakers, she added: “All 16 members have said that they cannot approve the personnel proposal (of von der Leyen as Commission president). I expect that to remain the case.”
A failure to confirm von der Leyen would be likely to pitch European politics into crisis – it took three days of haggling for leaders to come up with a candidate with a chance of winning the backing of both leaders and the parliament.
(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kevin Liffey)