Name? Ursula von der Leyen
Westphalian identity? German
Why is she in the news? Today is the beginning of the first in person EU summit since Covid-19 hit Europe. Von der Leyen invited all 27 leaders to negotiate the budget of the next seven years, including the 750 billion euro relief package.
Why do we care? 750 billion euros is a lot of money, and however that money is allocated or directed will influence the future of the continent. Furthermore, this summit will determine the future of the functionality of the EU. If EU leaders are not able to find a compromise that satisfies everyone, this will further the ongoing fragmentation inside the EU, determining the path towards more or less European integration. What a task for von der Leyen.
Why should you care? If you are European, they are negotiating about your money and how it will be allocated. If you are not European, your country’s leader is probably looking at the direction this summit will take and whether this could be a model to follow, unless you are US American of course.
Who else cares? Greta Thunberg. Rumours have it that about 30% of the budget is going towards the European Green Deal. Fridays for Future have already demanded more money, while Poland and Hungary rejected presettings. After her election in May 2019, von der Leyen attempted to please climate activists that heavily influenced parliamentary elections, but will she continue to do so?
Any further comments? Von der Leyen needs to balance the two main groups: the “frugal four” vs birthday girl Merkel and Macron. In the past week, European leaders have had plenty of bilateral meetings all over Europe discussing attempts on how to compromise. In all of this, one issue becomes imminent: the importance of human interaction and the possibility of backroom talks between the leaders after 4 months of Zoom fatigue.