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Jun 10, 2024, 4:05pm EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Von der Leyen the favorite for a second term as European Commission president

Insights from Financial Times, Politico, and The Guardian

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Ursula von der Leyen with Giorgia Meloni
Sherry Jacob/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo/Reuters
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Ursula von der Leyen has quickly emerged as the favorite for the European Union’s top job, after the bloc’s parliamentary elections offered her a pathway to securing a second term as president of the European Commission.

The party alliances that supported her last term have won a majority in this year’s elections — although some members of that coalition may defect, the Financial Times reported. That could leave von der Leyen dependent on winning over the hard-right or the Greens, but some current members of her coalition have warned her not to.

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For her part, von der Leyen vowed to reach out to the “big political families” to build a majority for a “strong and effective Europe.”

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

A ‘narrow path’ to reelection

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Sources:  
Financial Times, The Guardian, Politico

Ursula von der Leyen will now have to make “uncomfortable choices and backroom deals” to walk a “narrow path” to a second term, the Financial Times reported. She might have to shift her stance on climate policy or immigration, particularly, to win the support of Greens or the hard-right, according to the FT. Even so, many EU insiders expect she will ultimately wrangle enough support for a second term. She “was and still is the presumptive second-term commission president,” an EU diplomat told The Guardian. France’s Emmanuel Macron is particularly eager to back von der Leyen after a poor showing for his own party in the election, and despite initially considering other candidates for the job, Politico reported.

Von der Leyen envisions a ‘geopolitical’ EU

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Sources:  
Reuters, The Telegraph, Politico

Von der Leyen campaigned on doubling down on the EU’s defense commitments, saying in April that Europe needs to “turbocharge our defense industrial capacity in the next five years.” She has promised to push to centralize defense spending, and argued the continent should start buying tanks, fighter jets, and drones collectively, The Telegraph reported. Not everyone is happy about von der Leyen’s geopolitics. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a letter to von der Leyen that he was concerned the EU was in danger of overlapping with NATO’s core responsibilities, Politico reported.

Horse-races begin for other top posts

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Source:  
Politico

The race is also on to become the EU’s chief diplomat, as the current job holder, Josep Borrell, the Spanish high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, is on his way out. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is the favorite for the job, Politico reported, although some western European officials fear the Baltic leader may be too focused on Russia. Other potential candidates include Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Poland’s foreign minister, Radek Sikorski. Meanwhile, few political heavyweights have lined up so far for the role of defense commissioner — a position von der Leyen has promised to create. The job is expected to come with limited power, as EU countries tend to zealously guard their security portfolios, rendering the position seem “pure PR,” one official said.

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