Erwartungen an von der Leyens Rede zur Lage der EU: »Dann hätte sie Teile ihrer Partei gegen sich«

Ursula von der Leyen (bei ihrer Bewerbungsrede im EU-Parlament in Straßburg im Juli 2019)

Ursula von der Leyen (bei ihrer Bewerbungsrede im EU-Parlament in Straßburg im Juli 2019)


Michael Kappeler/ dpa

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When Ursula von der Leyen enters the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday morning, she will deliver her possibly last „State of the Union“ speech there. The European elections are scheduled for June 2024, and it is still uncertain whether the CDU politician will run again for the position of Commission President. This is one of the reasons why her speech is eagerly anticipated. The opposition hopes to gain insights into the future strategic direction: which majorities could the 64-year-old rely on?

SPIEGEL: Mr. Andresen, you are demanding that Ursula von der Leyen distances herself from the cooperation between the Christian Democrats and right-wing parties in her „State of the Union“ speech. Will she grant you this favor?

Foto: Alex Flores

Rasmus Andresen, Jahrgang 1986, ist Sprecher der deutschen Grünen im Europäischen Parlament. Er koordiniert die Haushaltspolitik der Fraktion. Zuvor war er Vizepräsident des schleswig-holsteinischen Landtags.

Andresen: I’m afraid she won’t clearly position herself – because then she would have parts of her own party against her. In any case, having a clear stance is not von der Leyen’s strength.

SPIEGEL: Über welche Komponenten sprechen Sie?

Andresen: Especially Manfred Weber, the President and Faction Leader of the European People’s Party. He has been seeking the support of right-wing populists like Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni for months. If Weber forms a majority with nationalists and right-wing populists after the election, he would be granting parties that want to abolish the EU direct and significant influence over the affairs of the Parliament for the first time.

SPIEGEL: Isn’t this fear of a CSU politician being an enabler for right-wing extremists a bit exaggerated?

Andresen: I hope so. But let’s consider the dispute over the Renaturation Act: The EVP terminated the alliance with other pro-European factions in order to sabotage the law. Fortunately, this attempt failed, but we must assume that it was just a trial run.

SPIEGEL: Über Meloni kann man bisher kaum behaupten, dass eine Art faschistischer Politik betreibt. Stattdessen agiert sie in Finanz- oder Migrationsfragen für viele überraschend moderat. Halten Sie sie dennoch für gefährlich?

Andresen: I consider Giorgia Meloni to be extremely dangerous. In Italy, she has cut social benefits for the most vulnerable, initiated steps towards the abolition of press freedom, and severely restricted the rights of sexual minorities. The fact that she appears moderate in European politics is likely due to her country’s economic dependence on the EU and her inability to afford a rupture with the EU.

EVP-Chef Weber, Italiens Regierungschefin Meloni

EVP-Chef Weber, Italiens Regierungschefin Meloni

Foto: Filippo Attili / Palazzo Chigi / Lapresse / action press

Can von der Leyen, as Commission President, exert any significant influence on these partisan issues?

Andresen: I expect a Commission President to clearly express their support for the collaboration between the EPP, Greens, Social Democrats, and Liberals in their speech. This would also be a positive signal for a potential second term.

SPIEGEL: What makes you so certain that it will exist?

Andresen: I am definitely not sure, on the contrary. Whether von der Leyen will run again probably also depends on whether her political profile still aligns with her party.

SPIEGEL: Over the past four years, von der Leyen has mandated an energy transition for the EU with the Green Deal, organized vaccine procurement during the pandemic, and pushed for support to Ukraine in its war against Russia. In her speech, she is likely to not hold back on self-praise. What is your assessment of her track record?

Mehr zum Thema

Andresen: She has been committed to climate protection and introduced the Green Deal. However, this was also due to a significant public pressure in this regard in 2019. Now that the sentiment has shifted, she is fighting for climate protection with much less determination than before.

Could the political actions of the Greens, especially the German Greens, have something to do with this shift in sentiment?

Andresen: I believe that the changed societal situation is responsible for it. With the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion, two major crises that hardly anyone would have thought possible four years ago have occurred one after another. This has greatly unsettled people. As a result, different questions are currently at the forefront than climate protection.