Ursula von der Leyen cannot hope for German solidarity in her bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the President of the next European Commission.
The European Parliament votes on the nomination Tuesday and Von der Leyen needs the support of 374 MEPs.
The German government’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, have already made clear they will not be putting their 16 MEPS behind the German Defense Minister, drawing the ire of Chancellor Angela Merkel. “… The coalition partner is not pulling together with us here,” Merkel told the press on Thursday.
In fact, MEP Jens Geier reportedly circulated a list of reasons why the Social Democratic group – Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats – should not support Von der Leyen. The paper signals her out as the preferred candidate of Victor Orban, although the leadership of SPD assumes no responsibility for the non-paper.
This has domestic repercussions. The leader of the CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has warned that if the SPD fails to support von der Leyen, the grand coalition (GroKo) would face a “huge burden.” The implicit threat is not credible, as no party wants to go to the polls, but it could make governing in Germany much harder.
Meanwhile, the 74 Greens MEPs have not pledged their support to the German Defense Minister either, although the Defense Minister is promising to bolster core environmental policies, such as expanding the emissions trading system to include aviation, shipping and buildings, and exploring the “option of a carbon border tax.”
Naturally, the support of the 41 members of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left is out of the question.
That leaves Von der Leyen with certain support only from 182 MEPs. To make it, she needs the support of all 108-members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, who have not yet formally committed, as well as the 61 members of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, who could emerge as king-makers.