EU enters into election mode as Thierry Breton attacks Ursula von der Leyen

EU enters into election mode as Thierry Breton attacks Ursula von der Leyen
Credit: Belga

Election fever has entered the European Commission, where European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, questions President Ursula von der Leyen’s party support for re-election.

Von der Leyen was proposed as the top candidate for the Commission Presidency during a European People’s Party (EPP) congress in Bucharest.

Projections suggest that the EPP, an umbrella body for Christian democratic and conservative parties, will continue to be the largest political group in the European Parliament following June’s elections, potentially positioning von der Leyen for a second term.

Breton sees things differently. "Despite her qualities, Ursula von Leyen is marginally supported by her party. The key question now is whether it’s feasible to entrust European governance to the EPP for 5 more years, totalling 25 consecutive years. The EPP itself seems to have little faith in its candidate," the Frenchman, belonging to the liberal Renew Europe family, wrote on social media. Renew Europe hasn’t yet identified its top candidates.

In Bucharest, von der Leyen’s nomination won 400 to 89 votes out of a pool of 499. No other candidates were presented. Breton compares the 400 votes to the 801 total delegates with voting rights. According to the EPP, however, only 737 delegates were entitled to vote for their top candidate, with 591 registering to vote.

Breton's words warranted a response from the General Secretary of the EPP Thanasis Bakolas. "Thank you, Commissioner Breton, for your interest in the EPP and our lead candidate. I know the liberals are anxious about the upcoming European elections - having no foresight, no message, no relevance."

Political jabs between Commissioners are rare. Reportedly, a spokesperson for the Commission underlined that Breton’s comments were a personal remark, not made in his official capacity.

Commissioners wishing to participate in the European elections’ campaign must distinguish between their official roles and campaign activities, even creating separate social media accounts and refraining from using Commission staff or resources.

The spokesperson mentioned that the General Secretariat will send all commissioners a reminder of the guidelines set for the electoral campaign period, concluding that it calls upon all commissioners to demonstrate judgement in applying these rules.

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