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EPP Secretary General ‘confident’ EPP leaders will support second von der Leyen term

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Thanasis Bakolas, secretary general of the centre-right European People’s Party, said he was confident that the party’s national leaders would “do the right thing” and back Ursula von der Leyen for a second term at the helm of the European Commission, while warning of possible “disruptors” from other political parties.

“I feel confident that my leaders, the twelve leaders sitting at the European Council table,  will do the right thing and stand by our commission president’s second term.”, Bakolas said during a Euractiv event on Thursday (30 November),

“The question now is whether other political actors will choose to be disruptors”, he added, in a clear message to the representatives of other EU political parties on the panel that the EPP has every intention of ensuring that the 2019 scenario is not repeated in the upcoming 2024 EU elections.

In 2019, the EPP, the largest political group in the European Parliament, withdrew its support for Manfred Weber as the lead candidate, or Spitzenkandidat, and instead backed fellow German Ursula von der Leyen for the post of European Commission president.

Von der Leyen, previously Germany’s defence minister, emerged as a compromise candidate in response to the initial impasse over Weber’s candidacy. Like Weber, she is a member of the EPP but was also seen as a centrist who could appeal to the liberal Renew Europe.

The decision to appoint von der Leyen came after French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to veto any candidate who did not have the support of his Renew Europe group.

The EPP’s backpedalling was seen as a significant concession to Macron and his allies in the European Parliament and also highlighted growing divisions within the EPP, which has increasingly struggled to maintain unity in recent years.

Von der Leyen’s appointment raised doubts about the fate of the Spitzenkandidat process, whereby the top candidate of the winning party in European elections becomes Commission president.

Her appointment signaled a departure from this process, which was previously used only once, with the appointment of her predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014, and sparked debates about the future of EU leadership selection.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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