What can Europe expect from von der Leyen?

With just nine votes more than she needed the European Parliament has elected Ursula von der Leyen as the new President of the EU Commission. Since the heads of government ignored the actual lead candidates for the top EU post many MEPs only opted to vote for the German politician at the last minute. Commentators make clear what they expect of von der Leyen.

Open/close all quotes
NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Defy Trump, Poland and Hungary

Political scientist Luuk van Middelaar outlines the challenges the new Commission president faces in NRC Handelsblad:

“For her political work with the heads of government and on the world stage it is her personal qualities that count - above all her powers of judgement and persuasion. It is 'VDL' who will have to negotiate with Trump from 1 November onwards to avoid a trade war. And the US elections in 2020 will not make her job any easier. ... What we don't know is whether she promised to be less critical of violations of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary in return for their votes. ... But I believe that here too von der Leyen will show the requisite independence and gumption when needed.”

Lrytas (LT) /

Green vision is a glimmer of hope

Lrytas.lt sees the designated Commission president's climate protection plans as a source of hope:

“She wants only renewable energy that is climate neutral to be used. How paradoxical that it was the Greens and representatives of left-wing groups in the EU Parliament who spoke out against her candidacy. ... After all, the key points on their programmes refer to climate protection, sustainable development and green industry. ... If in the next hundred working days we see von der Leyen's plans submitted in the form of a law, this will be a huge step for Europe.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Chance for a new start to EU-Turkish relations

In view of the desperate state of relations between the EU and Turkey, Daily Sabah pins its hopes on the new commission:

“The EU immediately has to re-evaluate its policies toward Turkey. Today's EU commission, which is about to end its duty, is unable to succeed in this matter. One of the first steps the new EU commission that von der Leyen will become the president of has to take should be this matter. Dialogue with Turkey should be cleared of its threatening tone. The attitude toward Turkey should be constructive and positive. A realistic approach is needed. Our wish for EU-Turkey relations with von der Leyen is to be able to take the steps that will be beneficial for both sides.”

De Morgen (BE) /

A woman with a vision

De Morgen was impressed by the speech of the new president of the Commission:

“Five minutes. That's all it took for the German Ursula von der Leyen to consign Jean-Claude Juncker, her predecessor in the European Parliament, to oblivion. Because let's be honest, he was never a good speaker. ... This was a woman with a vision speaking. ... Slowly it dawned on people that von der Leyen is perhaps not the grey mouse and second-class politician that so many people have claimed she is. She certainly had the Eurosceptics choking on their coffee. ... It's impossible to be liked by everyone, but the fact is that she made a good first impression.”

Huffington Post Italia (IT) /

The perfect president

Political scientist Hubaldo Villani-Lubelli is delighted by the new president of the Commission, as he writes in Huffington Post Italia:

“Her international profile makes her the perfect president of the European Commission. Ursula von der Leyen is a member of the board of trustees of the World Economic Forum and she has repeatedly spoken at the Munich Security Conference ... She will guarantee that Europe defends the rule of law without yielding a single centimetre and without being intimidated by the more or less authoritarian leaders who have come to dominate in recent years. We can expect her to take a clear position on European defence policy, one of the ongoing objectives that Europe must achieve over the next five years.”

Večer (SI) /

Ivory-tower elite

Večer, however, does not approve of the choice:

“A member of the elite has been chosen. She has no idea what the majority of EU citizens need or how they live, the people who after all are paying dearly for the officials and their armies of employees and advisors with their taxes. ... From one legislative period to the next, more and more people in Brussels are being paid to polish the image of their bosses in the top positions and distract the public from the real problems. ... The Commission began betraying the interests of those it should be representing back in 2004 to 2014 under Commission President José Manuel Barroso. At that time EU commissioners began to openly list the interests of their particular countries to justify their proposals and positions. ”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Without power or strength

The Tages-Anzeiger doubts that Ursula von der Leyen will be able to deliver:

“The problem is the fragmentation and polarisation of the political landscape. The rifts are apparent in all the political families. Ursula von der Leyen will be in demand as a bridge builder, but the days when the EU was controlled by an informally large coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats are over. The new majorities are fragile. Ursula von der Leyen sees herself confronted with the most rigorous demands and made a lot of promises in her pitch for the job. But she won't be able to deliver anything if she doesn't have the support of the member states and the EU parliament. Compromise seems to be becoming a dirty word, but without viable compromises things will come to a standstill and Ursula von der Leyen will be a president without power or strength.”

The Independent (GB) /

Lacking the courage for sustainable change

The Independent explains why von der Leyen failed to convince the Greens:

“[T]he speech also made clear that she has responded to the Green Wave in Europe and the urgency of the climate challenge, but only as far as her business paymasters will allow. Her political roots make it impossible for her to embrace the fundamental social and economic changes that could turn the sustainability transition into a celebration of diversity and equality. To gain Green and progressive votes she would have needed an entirely different speech.”

Club Z (BG) /

Servant of many masters

With her waver-thin majority von der Leyen will not have it easy, Club Z attests:

“This EU Commission has a shaky majority of nine MEPs. So it's not even clear if it will last five years. It is also not clear whether von der Leyen will even manage to please those who voted for her. Because her visions for the EU are contradictory on many points. That means that the EU will continue to moving forward only in tiny, hesitant steps. ... Von der Leyen will have a difficult mandate - not because of those who voted against her but because of those who voted for her. She will be the servant of many masters.”