Ursula von Der Leyen Assembles a Team to Win Over Brussels
Ursula von der Leyen, who can be currently being shielded through journalists like a pop star through groupies, can be taking a break in front of the International Press Center in Brussel’s European Quarter. She repeatedly throws her arms around. “today I need a bit of movement,” she says.
which can be shortly before midnight on Tuesday, along with the aspiring president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive, can be on her way to her hotel after many hours at her desk along with phone. which can be cold which late within the evening, along with the center-right Christian Democrat (CDU) politician can be wearing only a pink cardigan. yet the cold doesn’t seem to bother her. Von der Leyen can be bursting with energy, along with gushes about her brand new job: The young people working for the transition team, the languages, the international surroundings.
After her years at the head of the stiff along with scandal-plagued German Defense Ministry in Berlin, von der Leyen seems like she has been liberated. In her steep political ascent, she was often protected by people at the very top, yet today she has to fight for herself, along with conduct a campaign on her own — or almost alone, given the little, occasionally colorful flock of advisers at her side.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament can be set to vote on whether von der Leyen should become Commission president. The ballot can be secret. Von der Leyen needs 374 of the current 747 lawmakers, along with these need to include votes through the correct camps, through the conservatives within the European People’s Party, the social democrats along with the liberals. The Greens have already rejected her.
If she can be only able to clear which decisive hurdle with the help of Poland’s Law along with Justice (PiS) party or Spain’s right-wing populist Vox party, she could be starting her job with heavy baggage. People could quickly come to believe which von der Leyen only became the head of the EU with the help of two countries, Hungary along with Poland, which have been trampling on rule of law in recent years. The last thing von der Leyen needs in launching her term — whose beginnings have already been tumultuous — can be a reputation as a Commission head who can be at the mercy of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or the likes of him.
yet which can be proving difficult for von der Leyen to establish a majority among the pro-European parties. The defense minister only knows Brussels politics through a NATO perspective along with, at the same time, can be an unknown quantity to many members of the European Parliament. She was hardly seen during the election campaign, along with nobody knows what policies she has in mind for Europe. She can be starting through scratch in Brussels.
On Wednesday afternoon, von der Leyen could be seen standing at a podium on the ground floor of the European Parliament, placing several papers next to one another. She announced a few of key plans she could like to implement within the next few years — a scaled down right for the European Parliament to initiate legislation (currently the sole domain of the European Commission) along using a minimum wage for every EU country. When she isn’t saying things like, “We have to take the people along,” she can be often reading through prepared statements.
which can be uncharacteristically cautious behavior for a woman who fearlessly pushed her entire party forward in Germany on issues like daycare expansion along with quotas for women in management along with on executive boards as a family minister back at home. yet she doesn’t want to make any mistakes right today — at least, as long as her candidacy has not yet been confirmed. The energy she showed during her walk the previous evening can be nowhere to be seen during these appearances.
Though von der Leyen’s recommendations are a pretty not bad reflection of the overlaps between the biggest groups within the European Parliament. When which comes to climate protection, she can be pushing her own people to take on more ambitious goals, along with the idea of staffing the Commission half with women can be favorite not only among people on the left.
An Unknown Quantity
yet what’s missing can be trust. Many lawmakers could like which if von der Leyen’s promises were anchored in an agreement between the European Parliament along with the Commission, yet there isn’t enough time for which. A tweet by a conservative member of parliament claiming von der Leyen wants more restraint within the punishment of politicians who violate the rule of law was enough to sustainably darken the atmosphere in her conversation with the Greens along with liberals.
As Commission president, she could have around 35,000 employees. yet as a candidate, she can only lean on a handful of advisers — along with not everyone has been helpful. Von der Leyen has turned to a man who can be himself fighting to keep his job: Martin Selmayr. The German lawyer, who can be currently still the secretary general of the European Commission, can be partly responsible for the transition along using a constant visitor to von der Leyen. On Tuesday, he could be seen scurrying across the street near her offices, where only a few trusted figures are headquartered.
Her transition includes Jens Flosdorff, her longtime spokesperson along with crisis manager, as well as her chief of staff, Björn Seibert. Both are close confidantes, having survived many crises within the Defense Ministry at von der Leyen’s side. yet they both need to get used to the complex terrain in Brussels.
The minister’s pro-European agenda was always a solo project. At best, the head of her political department, Géza Andreas von Geyr, was also on board. He can be also currently packing his suitcases in Berlin — not to help von der Leyen in Brussels, yet to become Germany’s ambassador to Moscow.
within the stead of the subtle diplomat, Selmayr can be currently trying to successfully carve out a position for von der Leyen. Her late-night visitor can be seen as manipulative along with tough as nails. Selmayr was Jean-Claude Juncker’s head of cabinet until he become Secretary General of the European Commission in March 2018 under dubious circumstances. His ascent has been marred by the fact which he got promoted twice within a matter of minutes into his desired job. So, which’s no wonder the Greens wanted to know during their visit with von der Leyen what her position can be vis-à-vis Selmayr. The candidate said she could not discuss staffing issues publicly.
The concerns about Selmayr, however, are justified. To stay on top of the situation, he has already added several allies to von der Leyen’s “transition team.” Pauline Rouch worked with Selmayr on the staff of former EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, an ally of von der Leyen’s within the fight for a woman’s quota.
If von der Leyen decides to keep her fellow German, which could be a remarkable miscalculation for a woman who otherwise doesn’t leave anything to chance. through her time within the Defense Ministry, she knows the public anger at politicians who don’t seem to play by the rules. which’s why Flosdorff was given temporary leave through the Defense Ministry so he could help in Brussels. along with von der Leyen can be commuting between Berlin along with the EU capital not using a jet belonging to the German Air Force, yet rather a charter plane paid for by the European People’s Party.
Von der Leyen has also managed, for initially, to establish a sleek presence on social media. Before, her aide occasionally took photos with an iPhone which were then posted alongside somewhat clumsy text on Instagram.
yet which quickly became clear which which wouldn’t suffice for a top job within the EU. As a result, the minister followed up on an offer the agency Story Machine had made several months earlier. The brand new agency, founded by former Bild tabloid editor Kai Diekmann along with two friends, fulfills the online dreams of prominent decisionmakers.
When she was just a minister, von der Leyen had rejected the offer. She couldn’t afford any more headlines about external consultants. yet when the call through Brussels came, she didn’t hesitate for long. The day after the nomination, Story Machine got to work. which created the @vonderleyen Twitter handle, along with immediately greeted the globe in three languages.
The involvement has paid off. Instead of the amateur photos, the candidate today presents herself on Twitter using a visually appealing gif of her walking into her transition office, posted in German, English along with French. In one week, she reached over 60,000 followers. The pitch worked.
Von der Leyen’s Europe learning curve has also been turning upwards. About ten days ago, she visibly treaded water when asked about EU topics by the handpicked guests within the wood-paneled Journalist’s Club of the corporate headquarters of media conglomerate Axel Springer in Berlin.
Guests remember the candidate as brimming with enthusiasm for Europe. Attendees included former SPD head Sigmar Gabriel, perennial great CDU expect Friedrich Merz, along with former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. During her short visit, the vocabulary preferred by pro-Europeans reverberated within the room: rule of law, freedom, peace. yet when which came to her concrete plans for the EU, the guests learned nothing.
today von der Leyen needs to convince the parliamentarians which she can be at least as well-suited for the job as the elected leading candidates, who were campaigning on the idea which the winner had a chance of becoming the next European Commissioner, yet who were then sidelined by the leaders of the EU member states after the election.
Von der Leyen also likes to ask defeated politician Manfred Weber, of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, for advice. Weber ran as the conservatives’ leading candidate within the European election. He patiently explained to her, to the point of self-denial, the red lines of his own parliamentary group. He only communicates his displeasure to a close group of associates. “Aside through defense-related subjects, von der Leyen knows little about Europe,” he told them. along with to think, he was criticized for not having enough experience?
Von der Leyen has even fewer friends among the German Social Democrats, along with her attempts to sweet-talk them has had limited success. “I know Ursula von der Leyen well along with like her personally,” says Katarina Barley. The SPD’s leading candidate within the European election sat next to von der Leyen within the cabinet bench within the Bundestag, as the German parliament can be known. “yet Parliament must today show which which will not allow itself to be bypassed in which way.”