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Von der Leyen's re-election dilemma: Look right or turn green?

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen with Italian premier Giorgia Meloni at an EU summit in Brussels in April
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen with Italian premier Giorgia Meloni at an EU summit in Brussels in April Copyright Omar Havana/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Omar Havana/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Robert Hodgson
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The Green group in the European Parliament claims it offers European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's only safe path to re-election.


While Ursula von der Leyen seeks support from MEPs in her bid for a second term as European Commission president, her European People’s Party does not plan to broaden a three-way centrist alliance with the Socialists & Democrats and liberal Renew group, but one way or another she might need the support of the Greens or the hard right.

A senior source within the EPP told Euronews the Greens group would not be invited to join. “There won't be any formal inclusion of the Greens in the platform,” the source said, adding: “It will not happen.”

This was reinforced by a spokesperson for the centre-right group. “We have a coalition with Renew and the Social Democrats, it is then up to von der Leyen to negotiate support outside that,” the spokesperson said. “If she wants to negotiate with the Greens, or the ECR, that’s her business, not ours,” he added.

But the word “coalition” is perhaps a little strong for the nature of the cooperation between the three largest groups in the parliament, even if it is often bandied around. A historical grand coalition between the S&D and EPP died in 2019 when a surge of support for the Greens and liberals, and Eurosceptic populists, saw their relative power diminish.

When von der Leyen reached out to the S&D and Renew immediately after it became clear the EPP had come top in the EU elections on 9 June, she spoke not of a coalition but a successful “platform” that had operated over the past five years. “This platform has worked well, it was reliable, it was constructive, it was effective,” von der Leyen said.

Whether described as a coalition or platform, however, it boils down to horse trading over the political priorities von der Leyen will have to set out ahead of her confirmatory vote in the European Parliament later this month.

The co-presidents of the Greens, Bas Eickhout and Terry Reintke, met her on Monday, and subsequently said they had made it clear that they would withhold support if she cuts any kind of deal with the far-right.

The Greens have been pushing since their first meeting days after the election the idea that the Commission president cannot rely solely on support from the big three centrist parties to be sure of a second term.

It is no secret that the figurehead of the European Green Deal is far from flavour of the month even for some factions within her own political group – and the confirmatory vote to be held in a plenary session from 16-19 July will be a secret ballot.

Von der Leyen met the heads of political groups in the European Parliament at a so-called conference of the presidents on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Eickhout warned that the Commission president could also lose support from the S&D if she makes overtures to the right-wing ECR group, or even the 24 members from Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party within it.

Asked if von der Leyen did not equally risk losing support in her own party if she accommodates some of the Greens’ concerns in her policy plan, the Dutch lawmaker said he saw “issues where we can come together”.

“We all have a concern about the future of European industry and the Greens and EPP, let's see how far we can get together – we might surprise you,” Eickhout said.

The “platform” von der Leyen spoke of, therefore, is really an agreement on the “political guidelines” for the next Commission, which von der Leyen has not yet finalised – just as the political groups on whose support she is counting have not yet finalised their demands.

A source within the S&D dismissed the notion that any kind of coalition is in the offing, saying ongoing talks were purely about the political programme of the next Commission.

A spokesperson for the centre-left group subsequently confirmed it would “never agree to an alliance with those who want to destroy the EU, whether ID or ECR”, echoing the group’s president Iratxe García.


“We have of course our own demands when it comes to the future programme and policies,” the S&D spokesperson said. “We are finalising those and will put them forward in due time.”

The liberal Renew group – still reeling from the hammering it took in the elections, especially in France – similarly stressed that no deal has yet been struck with either the EPP or von der Leyen.

“This week we, as a group, are working to set up our priorities and conditions/red lines for von der Leyen,” Renew spokesperson Clara de Melo Ponce said today. “We will inform her about it in our group meeting next week (she will be present) and will listen to her and see which are her commitments.”

Renew president Valérie Hayer said on election night that her group – which was hammered at the polls – was ready to be in the “driving seat of a pro-European coalition if our conditions and ambitions are matched”.

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