Ursula von der Leyen’s first year at the helm of the EU Commission was marked by the corona crisis. A balance sheet.
The first woman to head the European Commission touches the big ladle at the beginning of her time in Brussels. Anyone who knew Ursula von der Leyen from her time in Germany was prepared for it.
The tried and tested German minister wanted to show right from the start that she could also be president. Her slogan “A Union that wants to achieve more” was on a giant poster at the Commission’s headquarters in Brussels for weeks.
A Union that wants to achieve more, especially in climate policy, was soon to be found. With the “Green Deal”, Europe will be the first climate-neutral continent from 2050, according to the announcement. As early as spring, the Commission was able to bring a European climate law in motion, which will have to overcome another hurdle at the EU summit in December.
There are still a lot of ambiguities with regard to financing or projects for the energy transition. There is also the question of how the President of the Commission can convince member states such as Poland, which continue to rely heavily on coal mining, as well as agriculture and the auto industry, of the “Green Deal”.
Reducing Ursula von der Leyen’s first year as Commission President to just the “Green Deal” would not do justice to the major announcements made by the doctorate doctor. The EU should also be at the forefront of digitization and be taken seriously on the world stage as a geopolitical power. Such big announcements are typical for the politician Ursula von der Leyen, says the German journalist Daniel Goffart, who wrote a biography about von der Leyen together with Ulrike Demmer.
And then came the pandemic
These were scenes in spring this year that have not been seen in Europe for decades. The member states are closing their borders, the free movement of people has effectively come to a standstill and protective material is in short supply. Ursula von der Leyen tries to take over the coordination in the corona crisis, but is often a step too late and is hardly heard in the EU countries. The competencies regarding borders and health policy lie with the member states.
It looks different when it comes to financial skills. In order to support the countries heavily burdened by Corona, von der Leyen responded with a big promise. With the recovery resp. Reconstruction funds are to be made available to 750 billion euros. The top German politician is dependent on the support of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
After days of negotiations, the reconstruction fund is confirmed in a modified form by the heads of state and government. Von der Leyen can use the fund to expand her power, as the commission can issue bonds on the capital market in order to raise the money it needs.
The recovery fund is not an aid package that von der Leyen can claim as the sole success, but her many years of experience have helped her to get this historic aid package off the ground.
However, the reconstruction fund is not yet in the dry towels. The 750 billion euros and the long-term budget are currently blocked by Hungary and Poland. The President of the Commission is once again facing a disunited Europe that should stick together, especially now during the pandemic.