Ireland to back Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for second term

Sinn Fein calls for veto on President of the European Commission over her support for Israel

The Government is likely to back European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for a second term in the role, according to senior figures.

Ms von der Leyen announced her intention to seek reappointment in Berlin yesterday in a move that was widely expected for some time.

Government sources pointed to various uncertainties such as the outcome of the European Parliament elections and potential other candidates. They also said the Irish Government disagreed with Ms von der Leyen’s strongly pro-Israel line since the conflict erupted in Gaza.

But sources praised her record on Brexit, on climate action, on Covid and especially on Ukraine, where she has been a strong supporter of that country’s bid to become a candidate for membership of the EU, and of military support for Kyiv from EU countries.


“It would be a foolish Government that would oppose her,” said one senior source. Another senior figure confirmed the expectation that Dublin would back Ms von der Leyen.

But Sinn Féin called on the Government to say that it would not support a second term for von der Leyen, and foreign affairs spokesman Matt Carthy told The Irish Times that if Sinn Féin were in government, the party would veto her appointment.

“In offering Netanyahu unconditional and unqualified support at a pivotal and escalating point in Israel’s onslaught against the civilian population of Gaza, Ursula von der Leyen provided political cover for the genocidal destruction that has unfolded in front of our eyes,” he said in a statement.

“The Irish Government must clearly state that they will not support the reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen. So too should all candidates contesting the European elections, considering one of the first tasks of new MEPs will be to ratify the nomination for Commission president.

“The Irish Government must also state that it will defend Ireland’s neutrality and our independent foreign policy against any efforts to undermine our ability to play a positive and constructive role in the world.”

The Commission presidency is the single most powerful role in the EU, though the body shares power with the European Council and the group of heads of EU governments, and the appointment is made by the Council, subject to ratification by the European Parliament.

In reality, the job tends to be part of a series of horse-trading between political blocs and countries over senior EU roles in the wake of the parliamentary elections, which are due in early June.

Ms von der Leyen is expected to be the lead candidate of the EPP group of Christian democratic parties under the Sptzenkandidaten system – where the Commission presidency is supposed to be the prize for the party that returns the largest number of MEPs. However, EU leaders retain the right to appoint who they like. Five years ago, they overlooked the EPP’s lead candidate Manfred Weber to appoint von der Leyen at the suggestion of then German chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times