Greens ‘will not back von der Leyen’ for re-election if she does deal with far right

Deal between EC president and Italian prime minister’s group would put climate-crisis plan in danger, says German Green MEP

Green members of the European Parliament will not support Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as the commission president if she makes a deal with hard-right nationalists, the party’s joint lead candidate has said.

Terry Reintke, the German Green MEP chairwoman, said her group would “absolutely” not support Ms von der Leyen – the incumbent centre-right commission president who is seeking a second term – if she made a deal with the Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s group in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

“We are not going to join the coalition or the majority, for example, with the ECR. So there, Ursula von der Leyen, or whoever wants to build a majority, will have to make a choice,” Ms Reintke said.

Ms Reintke warned if Ms von der Leyen joined forces with the ECR, which has repeatedly voted against EU green policies, the EU’s plan to tackle the climate crisis would be in danger. “It’s much more likely that the green deal will be killed, or at least slowed down”. She said this would be “a disaster not only for the climate, but also for the economic standing of Europe” in the face of intense competition from the United States and China.

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The intervention deepens the dilemma for Ms von der Leyen, the clear front-runner for the commission top job, after a similar pledge from the centre left, which has said it will not support her if she works with hard-right parties, including Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.

Ms von der Leyen is seeking a second five-year term as commission president at the EU elections on June 6th-9th, where nationalist and far-right parties across Europe are expected to make significant gains at the expense of the traditional centre-right, social democrats, liberals and greens.

If Ms von der Leyen is nominated by EU leaders for a second term, she has to secure an absolute majority of the new parliament’s 720 MEPs. While the mainstream centre-right European People’s party (EPP), which includes von der Leyen’s German Christian Democrats (CDU), is likely to remain the biggest force in the parliament, with a possible 175 MEPs, she has to secure a much broader coalition.

In 2019, Ms von der Leyen scraped through with a majority of just nine MEP votes. Her path to power is even more precarious if the nationalist and far right make gains, although their MEPs are scattered across two groups and nonaligned members that have traditionally struggled to work together.

Green MEPs did not vote for Ms von der Leyen in 2019, but senior figures were later impressed with her commitment to the EU green deal in the face of opposition from her own party. Ms Reintke credited Ms von der Leyen with putting forward climate legislation that “really changed the course of the European Union” but expressed doubts about her ability to withstand pressure.

“Ursula von der Leyen – when you look at her track record – she very often is a politician that follows the zeitgeist,” Ms Reintke claimed. “And the zeitgeist in 2019 was towards green Europe. Now she has a lot of pressure from her own political group, and we know that EPP wants to turn back and basically say we do business as usual.”

Making her election pitch, Ms Reintke said: “Ursula von der Leyen will not be able, by herself, to continue the green deal. This will only be possible if greens are part of a majority, and I think voters have to know that.”

Ms Reintke, from the former coal and steel heartlands of Germany’s Ruhr valley, said Europe needed a big investment programme to implement the green deal.

Germany’s Greens – part of an unpopular coalition government – have fallen in national polls, denting their prospects in the next European Parliament. Ms Reintke insisted she was optimistic “we can turn it around”.

On the campaign trail, Ms von der Leyen has twice refused to rule out working with Ms Meloni, who she described as “clearly pro-European”. Rival candidates have excoriated Ms von der Leyen for failing to mention the complaints of Italian journalists who have alleged “suffocating control” from Ms Meloni’s government over their work.

Ms von der Leyen has also glossed over the Italian government’s restrictions on LGBTQ+ rights, merely saying she took a “completely different approach”. – Guardian