Jaythe past few days Ursula von der Leyen was due to fly to South America to push for a trade deal after returning from a controversial trip to China on April 7. Out of mercy, the meeting with the Brazilian president had to be postponed. She may need a breather.Over the past four months her diary has included a visit to President Joe Biden in Washington, a speech to the Canadian Parliament, tea with King Charles, a guest at a German cabinet meeting, and multiple summits with the US European Union27 heads of state are in Brussels and meet the leaders of the UK, Estonia, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine.next month she will fly to attend G7 Summit held in Japan.
These excursions are not grandstanding indulgences.this European Union is in turmoil. War in Europe forced it to redo its six-decade peace plan.Madame von der Leyen is developing a response to the challenge European Union, from the lack of Russian gas to anemic defense spending. Its economy, fresh from covid-19, is on a new trajectory to better counter US protectionist green subsidies, reduce overdependence on China, and address the urgency of climate change.
Previous crises, such as the eurozone crisis a decade ago, have threatened to tear apart European Union separate. The growing debate over how to deal with China is the latest source of pressure. But the face of the covid pandemic, and then the war in Russia, created a new sense of common purpose.Europe united around its blue gold star European Union Flags, a row of flags fly outside the Commission headquarters in Brussels.In her spacious office on the 13th floor, Madame von der Leyen told economist: “We showed this unity because we understood from the beginning that Russia’s war in Ukraine would change Europe.”
Her appointment in 2019 was a surprise. A longtime ally of former centre-right Chancellor Angela Merkel, she survived rather than thrived in tricky defense briefings for five years.Brussels’ top job suits multilingual Mrs von der Leyen: She grew up in Brussels, her father is a senior European Union Officially took office during the group’s formative years. “I was born European,” she said.
Three eccentricities amused Eurocrats in her early years. It starts with Mrs von der Leyen’s unusual rise to power – she studied economics before becoming a doctor, then juggled a political career and seven children. The second was her decision to turn part of her Brussels office into a studio to live in, to fill the days and nights of work (some predecessors were not so hardworking). The third is the habit of describing itself from the outset as leading a “geopolitical” committee.run European UnionThe company’s 32,000 executives in Brussels spend more time honing technocrats than high-level politics.
Under her leadership, however, the continent’s political structures have quietly been restructured, with more power flowing to the commissions she heads. The Covid-19 outbreak, shortly after she took office in 2019, posed early challenges for her.Madame von der Leyen struggles to keep a barrier between the two European Union The country rises again. Her staff was entrusted by governments to procure vaccines for 447 million Europeans — a task they were ill-prepared for and canceled only after costly initial delays.
The 64-year-old said the committee must “seize the opportunity and lead”. One example is the 750 billion euro ($820 billion) pandemic recovery fund, a big leap forward from federalization. Cleverly, the money can only be disbursed according to the priorities set by Brussels – which uses the money to attack countries that feel they are inadequate. European Union rule. Poland and Hungary, which are believed to have obstructed the judiciary, still haven’t seen any cash.
The war produced further changes.this European Union In response to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia imposed ten rounds of sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s regime and provided 38 billion euros in financial aid. It even paid for weapons worth around 3.6 billion euros, which used to be very taboo. The ensuing disruption of Russian gas supplies has raised questions about the extent of Europe’s dependence on the outside world. Mrs von der Leyen spoke of “resilience” – a concept not far removed from the “strategic autonomy” favored by French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom she has just visited China.
That visit illustrated the tricky power dynamics in Europe, where national leaders still dominate. Just before the visit, Mrs von der Leyen warned in a hawkish speech that “China has now turned the page of the era of ‘reform and opening up’ and is entering a new era of security and control”. Officials in Beijing ensured that she served as a second-in-command to the more dovish French president, allowing her to spend significantly less time with President Xi Jinping.those looking for division European UnionThe attitude towards China is easy. Macron then made matters worse by telling reporters that he did not think Europe should be a “follower” of the United States in a Taiwan crisis.
Whether it’s keeping the lights on, developing weapons or building electric cars, Europe increasingly wants to stand on its own. European Union As a result, the rules that once kept its economy among the most open in the world have fallen out of favor. A new economic model is emerging in which the state (including the Brussels bureaucracy) plays a greater role. This is in part the only surviving engagement with events on her original agenda: Europe is on track to cut carbon emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, with the potential to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
What might happen next? Mrs von der Leyen’s five-year term ends in 2024. She has been criticized for concentrating power in the hands of a small group of aides. Others complained that she was only channeling the collective interests of EU governments, rather than pursuing higher European ideals. Perhaps for this reason, most countries seem willing to give her a second term.But the mysterious process of assigning the top European Union Jobs (to be decided after the European elections in spring 2024) could trip her up.Rumor has it that she may eventually become NATO, also located in Brussels, may be the case. When asked about her intentions, she said nothing but a wry smile from a sophisticated politician.
The twin tragedies of covid-19 and war are a perfect fit for a doctor-turned-defense minister. But it’s an easy challenge to fumble around, and that’s not the case. She said keeping Europe united was “a constant work in progress”.it is European UnionAn unexpectedly powerful influence of late — and her own. “It’s kind of … you have to work day in and day out.” ■