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Election campaigne 2024: The Maastricht debate

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Ursula von der Leyen opened the debate at the election campaigne in Maastricht, the Netherlands with the surprising note, she is ready to cooperate with hard-right parties to secure her second term in the EU’s most powerful job.

Speaking at the Maastricht Debate, organized by POLITICO and Studio Europa Maastricht, she indicated she would be open to a deal with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group after EU-wide election.

The ECR group’s MEPs are consedered Euroskeptic, standing further to the right than von der Leyen’s centrists, and its ranks in the European Parliament are expected to swell after the vote in June.  Such a deal could break apart the coalition between von der Leyen’s group and the Socialists that has traditionally governed the EU institutions from the center aand also could mean a significant rightward shift for EU policymaking — on topics from migration to climate legislation, women’s rights, and defense.

Von der Leyen wouldn’t go any further she definitely ruled out a pact with the most extreme rightwing grouping, Identity and Democracy — which includes France’s Marine Le Pen , but she is more equivocal when it comes to working with the ECR, which is backed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

A collaboration with the ECR “depends very much on how the composition of the Parliament is, and who is in what group,” von der Leyen told the audience of 900 people gathered at the Vrijthof theater for the Monday night debate, with more than 250,000 watching online.

Her offer to Meloni and her allies marks a dramatic moment in the campaign to control the EU’s powerful institutions, a contest that is set to be decided after the June 6-9 European Parliament election. Far-right parties have been kept out of power across much of Europe by an unspoken agreement among more moderate rivals. – Politico writes.

Socialists are not happy

A deal with the ECR is a risky strategy. In order to secure a second term as Commission president, von der Leyen will likely need the backing of the Socialists and Democrats group, which polling suggests will come second in the June election.

“Values and rights cannot be divided according to some political arrangements,” said Nicolas Schmit, the Socialists’ lead candidate. “Either you can deal with the extreme right because you need them, or you say clearly there is no deal possible because they do not respect the fundamental rights our Commission has fought for.”

A loose coalition of von der Leyen’s EPP, plus Socialists, liberals — sometimes joined by the Greens — has steered the bloc in Parliament since 2019, passing ambitious climate laws.

Under the EU’s system, the new European Commission nominated by EU leaders after the election will require the support of a majority of the 720 MEPs elected to the Parliament in order to take office.

Last time, in 2019, von der Leyen only scraped past the threshold by nine votes.

EU Briefs publie des articles provenant de diverses sources extérieures qui expriment un large éventail de points de vue. Les positions prises dans ces articles ne sont pas nécessairement celles d'EU Briefs.

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