The European Commission President is embroiled in a legal row this week, as MEPs urge her to act against Hungary and Poland, who stand accused of rule of law breaches. Hungary and Poland are under investigations for suspected violations of European values under Article 7 of the EU Treaty. But Ms von der Leyen has not yet taken action against the countries’ leaders, with MEPs now asking Parliament President David Sassoli to trigger Article 265 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The protocol would see the Commission taken to court for failing to take action against “the growing risk of misusing the Union’s budget as means to deteriorate the rule of law in some member states”.
This isn’t the first time Ms von der Leyen has come under pressure in Europe.
After being appointed Commission President, many raised concerns given her track record as German defence minister.
In July 2019, former European Parliament President Martin Schulz said: “Von der Leyen is our weakest minister. That’s apparently enough to become Commission President.”
Rupert Scholz, who served as defence minister under Helmut Kohl, had equally damning words for Ms von der Leyen.
He said: “The Bundeswehr’s (German army) condition is catastrophic.
“The entire defence capability of the Federal Republic is suffering, which is totally irresponsible.”
Hans-Peter Bartels, a Social Democrat MP charged with monitoring the Bundeswehr for Parliament, wrote a report on the country’s forces published at the end of January 2019.
It concluded: “There is neither enough personnel nor material, and often one confronts shortage upon shortage.
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He added: “Unfortunately it did not become a tradition. I was the first and the last Spitzenkandidat.”
During the selection process, high profile figures from across the political spectrum in Berlin warned against Ms von der Leyen’s appointment.
Sigmar Gabriel, a former vice-chancellor from the same party, called her nomination “an unprecedented act of political trickery”.
The German Greens said the nomination of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ally was an “old-school backroom deal”, while the right of centre Free Democrats said she was “not the best candidate”.
Manfred Weber, another high profile figure from Mrs Merkel’s party, said the nomination of Ms von der Leyen was a “sad day for European democracy”.
Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, said she “will be unable to cope with the commission presidency”.
French President Emmanuel Macron backed the German politician, saying she has “the DNA of the European community”.