From left, Amir Ohana, Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, during a visit in solidarity with the victims of the Hamas terrorist attacks, in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Israel, October 13, 2023. BEA BAR KALLOS / EUROPA.EU
When she sits at the table of European heads of state and government, who are due to meet in Brussels on October 26 and 27, Ursula von der Leyen will, without a doubt, be received in a very courteous manner. Equal to herself, the President of the Commission will also be perfectly affable. In this exclusive club of men and women who make up the European Union (EU), you have to know how to keep a good face, even when you’ve taken a beating.
In recent times, Ursula von der Leyen has been severely criticized by the Twenty-Seven on several occasions. He is accused of going beyond his duties by taking initiatives, sometimes unfortunate as in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, in terms of foreign policy. We are offended that she stops certain decisions without consulting member states, such as signing the EU-Tunisia agreement on migration. We are alarmed to see her deploy so much effort to please Washington, when community and American interests are not always aligned. As for his perpetual “squabble” with Charles Michel, the President of the Council, it is extremely infuriating.
Since taking office at the end of 2019, Ursula von der Leyen has made repeated forays into the area of European foreign policy which is the responsibility of member states, Charles Michel and High Representative Josep Borrell. “The difficulties of the Franco-German couple leave it a space that it exploits,” analyzes a European diplomat.
On Ukraine, the Twenty-Seven, who were relatively united on the subject, did not make it a casus belli. Paris and Berlin may have found that she was going too far in the promises she made to Volodymyr Zelensky to open the doors of the EU to him or to seize Russian assets in Europe. But, after all, as Social Democratic MEP Raphaël Glucksmann says, “she succeeded in embodying Europe in a time of war and that is no small thing”.
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On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, things are quite different while Europeans are deeply divided. Each speech at the level of the Community institutions must be precise, which Ursula von der Leyen clearly forgot during her visit to Israel on October 13, of which she informed no one. When she affirms the right of the Jewish State to defend itself, after the terrorist attacks by Hamas, without recalling that Israel must respect international law and protect the civilian populations in Gaza, the Twenty-Seven choke up.
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