Ursula von der Leyen once again took aim at Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week as Brussels and London row over the Northern Ireland protocol. She insisted the bloc had “bent over backwards for years” to help protect stability in the region, and urged the UK to fully implement the policy. She said: “The European Union is determined to make the Protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.
“We’ve bent over backwards for years to find a solution on that. We agreed with the United Kingdom that the Protocol was the only solution ensuring the absence of a hard border on Northern Ireland.
“We’ve been really debating that since years and we’ve found the one and only solution.”
Ms von der Leyen is facing pressure from within the EU, however, as he handling of the pandemic is scrutinised.
In February 2020, Ashoka Mody wrote a column for Open Democracy outlining the challenges facing the Commission President.
The academic warned Ms von der Leyen had left the EU “in trouble” and said she was the “wrong person to rescue it.”
He added: “The acrimony and opportunistic horse-trading in von der Leyen’s appointment were a microcosm of a deepening European malaise: the inability to act with a common voice in the common interest.
“Von der Leyen is a product of that system. She is adept at its rhetoric and street-fighting tactics. But to now succeed, she must miraculously find common ground if she is to do better than she did at the German defence ministry.
“A shrill debate is raging on the size and allocation of EU’s next budget. And with member states staking out their national interests, the EU’s strategic agenda is in disarray.”
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Mr Mody also highlighted how Ms von der Leyen’s previous calls for “deeper integration” in Europe were at odds with the people of the continent.
He said: “Europeans emphatically steered away from a United States of Europe even in the shadow of the Second World War when the impetus to come together as a way of erasing the bloody memories was the greatest.
“The circumstances today are particularly inimical to such a goal—and likely to become steadily worse.”
Mr Mody also warned of a different challenge facing the EU – Germany’s economy.
He said Germany was “dangerously poised at an economic tipping point” and was “tearing itself apart politically”.
Mr Mody added: “As if to validate that bleaker view, distrust and divisions have grown alarmingly.
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“This has only been made worse by the chaotic selection of Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president and in anticipation of a fractious debate on the EU budget.
“Today it is hard to identify one strategic goal on which European leaders are unified to better the lives of European citizens.”
Lord Andrew Adonis, a vocal Remainer in the UK, branded Ms von der Leyen a “second rate” leader in a column for Prospect Magazine this week.
He said: “Von der Leyen got into politics following in the footsteps of her father, a power broker in Germany’s dominant centre-right Christian Democratic Union party; but, for all her connections, experience and ambition, high-level political talent has never been evident.
“She is Europe’s Hillary Clinton. And, of late, her extraordinary bungling over vaccines and the Irish border has tarnished the European Commission and could come to damage the standing of the EU as a whole.”