Politics & Economics

Is Von der Leyen on the hunt for a second mandate already on July the 18th?

July 2024
By Editorial Staff

It just took an informal dinner and a one-day-long European Council meeting to find a broad-based agreement on the so-called EU “top jobs”. Almost all 27 EU heads of State and government endorsed the list of names submitted by the six leaders who negotiated on behalf of the three political groups who supported the first mandate of Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission and obtained some 400 seats in the last elections.

The outgoing president of the European Council Charles Michel posted on X at midnight the triad of names backed by the leaders. Von der Leyen is designated to lead the for a further five years the college of commissioners. Former Portugues prime minister, Antonio Costa, is set to succeed Belgium’s Charles Michel. The name of the current Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas has been proposed for the post of high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The three of them represent the first attempt of the pro-European moderate parties- the European People’s Party, the Party of European Socialists and the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats – to carve up the main top jobs at the EU level.

While Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s objection was not a surprise given his political isolation, Italy’s Meloni abstention on von der Leyen designation leaves room for perplexities due to a possible lack of consideration for one of the big three founding countries. The trio proposed for the summit was claimed by Meloni to be “wrong in method and substance”. “I decided not to support it out of respect for the citizens and the indications that came from those citizens in the elections”, Meloni said to journalists on the margins of the meeting. “Let us continue working to give Italy the weight it deserves in Europe finally”, she added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a liberal, European Council veteran and the newly appointed next Secretary General of NATO, urged not to overdramatize Meloni’s stance.

“I think things will work out,” he said. “Meloni was annoyed that she was not involved, which was not possible because she is not a member of the three central parties. But she is the prime minister of Italy and is highly respected”, Rutte added. He pointed out that during the European Council meeting “Meloni expressed her ideas about how this process with total clarity, but the close personal ties we have remain”. After all, he recalled, “last time, in 2019, we did not agree unanimously on top jobs,” as Angela Merkel had to abstain on von der Leyen. It’s a little different this time, but “it’s not strange: it happens,” Rutte noted.

According to German daily FAZ Ursula von der Leyen will negotiate directly with Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni to decide which portfolio will be reserved for Italy in the next European Commission. The vote to give the green light to grant to Ursula von der Leyen a 5-year-long second mandate is likely to be tabled for July the 18th. After a first meeting with Antonio Costa and Kaja Kallas, von der Leyen posted on X and wrote “I know that the three of us can make such a great team”.

Leaders also agreed on the need for the Commission and the High Representative to present “developed options” for public and private funding to strengthen the defence technological and industrial base and address critical capability gaps. In their conclusions, they invited the Council, Member States, the Commission and the High Representative to advance on essential gaps of capability based on the Capability Development Plan. Further work is asked on the European Defence Industry Strategy (EDIS). EU leaders also stressed the adoption by mid-2025 of the proposal for a European Defence Industry Program (EDIP).

A reference was made also to the new European competitiveness deal, first mentioned in the summit conclusion last April. The “new deal” is meant to allow Europe to retain a competitive edge on the global stage and boost its industrial capabilities against the United States, China, India and other emerging powers.  “The European Council looks forward to swift and decisive progress on all strands of the new European competitiveness deal by the end of the year and will remain seized of the matter”, the text reads.

As regards the enlargement process, the European Commission is also engaged in presenting by spring 2025 in-depth policy reviews containing operational elements in areas such as the protection of the rule of law, long-term competitiveness policies, the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework and better governance.

The leaders also approved the document setting the policy priorities for the next EU mandate. The adopted Strategic Agenda 2024-2029 leaders clearly state in an excerpt that EU “values are our strength”. The document stresses on the need for Europe “to pursue efforts to promote global peace, justice and stability, as well as democracy, universal human rights and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all international fora”. Emphasis is placed on a stronger and more capable European Union in the field of security and defence, without prejudice to the positive contribution provided to global and transatlantic security and its complementarity to NATO. Leaders committed themselves to “mobilize the necessary instrument to bolster” European security and the protection of European citizens”. Enlargement is considered “a geostrategic investment in peace security, stability and prosperity.

The European Union “will undertake the necessary internal reforms to ensure that our policies are fit for the future and financed sustainably and that the EU institutions continue to function and act effectively”, the text adds. The freedom of movement “is a fundamental achievement” closely linked to the “shared responsibility to protect the EU’s external borders effectively”. Leaders suggest “a comprehensive partnerships approach” through which cooperating in a mutually beneficial way with countries of origin and transit.

Leaders also pledged to “champion vibrant rural communities and strengthen the position of farmers in the food supply chain” and build “a genuine energy union” through an ambitious electrification” based on the use of all “net-zero- and low-carbon solutions”.