This is unusual for a politician. In recent days, Ursula Von der Leyen has made two mistakes. First, the President of the European Commission admitted in the press that Europe has not sufficiently anticipated the risks of the mass production of vaccines. Then, in front of European elected officials, she took responsibility for a blunder on the control of vaccine exports to Northern Ireland, a misstep that was certainly quickly corrected but that the British blasted.
Unusual, “courageous” even greet some. This Wednesday again, she will explain her vaccine strategy to the European Parliament. A way for this 62-year-old woman, always impeccable and smiling, to silence those who reproach her for passing on to others in case of difficulty. The German weekly Der Spiegel, for example, described in a vitriolic article what it calls the “Von der Leyen method”, cruelly summed up as “shut up and dodge”.
Difficult to dodge when Europeans are not vaccinated quickly enough and the long-awaited vials on the continent are not delivered. Working day and night on the thirteenth floor of the Commission’s headquarters, sleeping in a quasi-monastic cell, is no longer enough. This mother of seven children whom her entourage sometimes calls “the vestal of Europe” serves as a scapegoat in the face of all dissatisfaction. Too German in Europe, too European in Germany, too secretive, too suspicious, too smooth, too obsessed with her own image. Critics make you dizzy.
“She is paranoid”
In Berlin, the electric campaign for the succession of Angela Merkel does not spare the former Minister of Defense. In Brussels, the European Parliament, which was pushing its own candidates, is slow to forgive him for his appointment by the heads of state. Even within the Commission, a year of teleworking has not made things any easier and the transplant is struggling to take. “She is paranoid,” snaps a source in Brussels that is close to her. She is so afraid of taking a wrong step that she is suspicious of anything said to her. Those around him seem convinced that we are doing better with a few, instead of relying on collective intelligence ”.
In the fall of 2019, Ursula Von der Leyen left Berlin with her chief of staff and a communications advisor in her luggage, two Germans, by her side for years. “It’s true, she works with a tight circle, she controls herself a lot, she is not in collusion, analyzes LREM MEP Nathalie Loiseau. But at the same time, she saw the health crisis coming, she took the measure of it, she had the intuition of the vaccine strategy. You have to realize that the Commission is going far beyond what was previously its role ”.
With the pandemic, the institution and its president had to manage stocks of masks or respirators. Today, it is the industrial tool that must be monitored to ensure that vaccine production will follow. The “guardian of the European treaties” was not equipped to manage operations. “She was not prepared for it, but neither were we” recognizes a European diplomat, for whom responsibilities are shared.
Moreover, lessons have already been learned: Thierry Breton, the industry commissioner, has just been called to the rescue, he will lead a “taskforce” on vaccines suitable for new variants. Until now, only her colleague from health spoke with the labs, the sign of an overly compartmentalized view of the tasks at the Commission. “Here we are, active in people’s daily lives. The nature of the issues is changing for us. People must understand that the institution is reinventing itself, ”pleads its spokesperson Eric Mamer.
“She shares a lot of French ideas”
On the French side, there is no question of dissociating themselves in the storm. In Parliament, the Macronists plead the cause of the German to the liberal family. “During her hearing against the group last week, the French were clearly instructed to support and congratulate her,” notes an observer.
The perfidious point out that Paris is protecting a leader appointed on the initiative of Emmanuel Macron. “Ursula Von der Leyen embodies a Europe that asserts itself, there is assumed political support,” clarifies Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune. She shares many French ideas, from the common purchasing framework for vaccines to the European stimulus plan, including competition policy. “
One regret all the same, the President of the Republic presented her as “a perfect French speaker”, but the President of the Commission rarely launches in French in public, except when she is reading a speech. The fear of not being perfect, no doubt. How do you say “let go” in German?
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr