Getting past EU leaders will be the easy part for von der Leyen

Convincing majority of European Parliament to back European Commission president for second term will be the real test

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen arrives at a European People's Party leaders meeting ahead of an informal European Council in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

Building a stable majority of support among the leaders of the 27 European Union countries was always expected to be the easier of the two hurdles Ursula von der Leyen had to clear to earn a second term at the top of the European Commission.

National leaders met in Brussels on Monday evening to discuss who they would nominate for the top job of commission president, with the German politician the main front-runner. Her position has only been strengthened after the strong performance of her political grouping, the centre right European People’s Party (EPP), in the recent European Parliament elections.

The tougher task, which may yet undo her campaign to renew her lease in the commission’s offices of the Berlaymont, will be securing a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament to confirm her nomination.

In the aftermath of the recent European elections, consensus began to solidify among the 27 national leaders to settle their decision on who to put forward for the top EU job sooner rather than later.


French president Emmanuel Macron had for months been withholding his support for a second Von der Leyen term, in what many suspected was an attempt to extract maximum concessions. It was Macron who parachuted Von der Leyen’s name into the mix five years ago, resulting in the then relatively unknown German minister for defence securing the high-profile EU role.

Consensus emerging around backing Ursula von der Leyen for second term, says Simon HarrisOpens in new window ]

Mario Draghi, the former prime minister of Italy who previously served as president of the European Central Bank, had previously been thrown out as a possible alternative by some in Macron’s orbit several weeks ago. It was not clear whether Draghi was a stalking horse to test the waters for a surprise late contender to replace Von der Leyen, or a genuine challenger in his own right.

Regardless, the French leader is now unlikely to have the bandwidth for a major political fight on both the domestic and European front. The first round of voting in snap parliamentary elections, where Macron has put his centrist party at risk of electoral wipeout against Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, is less than two weeks away.

While there may be a political agreement among national leaders to back Von der Leyen, a formal vote to nominate her for a second term will take place only at a full summit later next week.

Then she would have the tricky task of corralling a majority of the 720 MEPs to support her nomination, with that vote being held in the third week of July at the earliest.

Last time around she squeaked through by a margin of just nine votes, and the commission president has made a lot more enemies since then.