Ursula von der Leyen criticised for use of private jets

Ursula von der Leyen criticised for use of private jets
Credit: Belga

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, reportedly used a private jet 23 times last year, according to left-wing MEP Martin Schirdewan, as highlighted in German media Der Spiegel.

On three occasions in 2023, she travelled between Brussels and Strasbourg, the two seats of the European Parliament, using a private jet.

Schirdewan points out that train connections are taking less than five hours. The code of conduct for European Commission leaders states: "All options, including alternative schedules, should be carefully considered so that air travel is only contemplated as a last resort."

He reminds everyone of the climate crisis and the energy-saving efforts expected from the public.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for von der Leyen emphasised that the number of private jet flights was “absolutely minimal” compared to total journeys made by commercial flight, train and car.

The spokesperson cited time constraints, including appointments she couldn’t reach on time with commercial flights, as a justification. "The President and her team use regular transport means as much as possible," insisted the spokesperson.

In 2021, she was criticised by travelling to Glasgow, reachable by train, by private jet to attend the climate conference, COP26. She also attended COP28 sharing a private jet with European Council leader Charles Michel.

In just one hour, a single private jet can emit two tonnes of CO2, according to Europe's leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport. To put this into context, the average person living in the European Union emits 8.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent over the course of an entire year.

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