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Von der Leyen lasts an assault with the neo-fascists

Jesus Carames

June 7, 2024 | 8:00 pm

The main candidate of the European People's Party (EPP), Ursula Von der Leyen, has experienced the complications of flirting with the extreme right and is now seeking to strengthen alliances with more moderate and pro-European forces. With the elections to the European Parliament just around the corner, the president of the European Commission has decided to change her approach, moving away from the extreme right and towards the Greens and liberals, in the hope of re-editing a large moderate coalition.

A necessary alliance for the investiture

Von der Leyen, pragmatic as always, has understood that the key to her possible re-election is to build an alliance with parties that share her European vision. The latest polls indicate that, although the Greens and the liberal group Renew would lose strength, their decline would not be as drastic as feared. This scenario could allow the formation of a moderate coalition with the social democrats, emulating the stability that has characterized the European Union in recent decades.

The EPP leader has spent months trying to reach a rapprochement with the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and her ultra-conservative group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). However, this strategy has generated friction within her own party and has alarmed progressive parties, which have warned Von der Leyen that they will not support her if she allies herself with the far right.

Progressive Alliance Resistance

In the recent elections in the Netherlands, exit polls showed that, although Geert Wilders' far-right has gained support, the progressive alliance of social democrats and greens (GroenLinks-PvdA) has also resisted strongly. These results confirm the trend followed by European conservatives and highlight the possibility that a significant percentage of the ultra vote is not reflected in the polls.

Von der Leyen, aware of this reality, now looks towards the Greens, who could be a key ally to avoid any type of alliance with far-right parties. The environmentalists, who abstained five years ago in the confirmation of Von der Leyen, this time do not rule out supporting her if by doing so they can stop alliances with the ultras.

The price of green support

To have the support of the Greens, Von der Leyen will have to commit to promoting a green agenda, something that she prioritized at the beginning of her term but that has been relegated due to pressure from the right and the industry. With the polls in hand and the pressure from large social democratic forces like Spain, which seeks to place Teresa Ribera in a key position, the conservative candidate could resume her environmental policies.

The situation in Europe is extremely volatile, with two wars on the horizon and the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the White House. This instability adds an extra layer of uncertainty to the European elections and the future of the Commission chaired by Von der Leyen.

The concern within the EPP

Recent moves towards the far right have generated unrest within the EPP. Figures such as Christiana Xenofontos, candidate for the Cyprus Democratic Group, have expressed their rejection of any type of communication with the extreme right. Even the former president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has warned about the risks of these alliances.

The Conservatives' recent alliances with far-right parties in countries such as Finland, Sweden, Austria and Croatia, as well as in regional and local governments in Spain, have raised concerns about the direction the EPP is taking. The pressure is also on leaders like Donald Tusk in Poland, who faces challenges from both the progressive coalition and the ultra-conservative PiS.

In this complex scenario, Ursula von der Leyen faces the challenge of maintaining the credibility of the EU and preventing populist and ultranationalist messages from eroding the European project. Next week will be decisive in defining the course of Europe and the future of its leadership.

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