Scandal in the EU

10:32 07.10.2023 •

Charles Michel accused Ursula von der Leyen

EU Council President Charles Michel accused the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, of exceeding her foreign policy powers.

EU Commission spokeswoman Arianna Podesta rejected the allegations: “These statements by the Council President are partly inaccurate.”

In an interview for the German magazine SPIEGEL, Michel commented on the distribution of roles within the EU. According to Michel, he himself plays an important foreign policy role as President of the European Council. “The European Council decides on the strategic direction, the Commission takes care of its implementation,” he said.

However, sometimes problems arise. And as an example of “excess of authority,” Michel cited the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In his opinion, during the conclusion of the migration agreement with Tunisia, which von der Leyen recently announced together with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte and the Italian Giorgia Meloni, the EU Council, which is headed by Michel himself, “remained aloof from the decision-making process.”

Commission spokeswoman Arianna Podesta not only called the statement “partly false” but also said the statement would in no way strengthen the EU's ability to act on the complex migration issue. This issue has now become one of the central ones in the EU – the influx of migrants is crossing all expected boundaries.

“The Commission has the full political support of the European Council, including in its conclusions of June 2023, and is making practical and effective progress in the fight against irregular migration,” the spokeswoman said.

In addition, the EU Commission is “legally free to negotiate agreements that are not binding under international law,” such as the joint memorandum with Tunisia. The Commission notes that even the legal service of the EU Council did not see any legal problems with the declaration of intent.

Michel's other statements were met with surprise among von der Leyen's circle, including when he described his own role in fighting the pandemic and applying “quick sanctions” against Russia. The European Commission says that “Michel personally was not involved in anything.”

People are also annoyed that Michel accuses the Commission of exceeding its powers, but he himself exceeds his own powers by offering Ukraine the prospect of joining by 2030, although this is not provided for in the rules.

In the past, SPIEGEL notes, there has already been a “struggle for power” in European structures between von der Leyen and Michel. This is not surprising, since these structures are numerous and their powers are very broad, which leads to a conflict of interests.

Now the conflict is becoming evident again, especially in the field of foreign policy.

SPIEGEL recalls how in 2021, during a visit to Turkey, Michel was allowed to sit on a chair next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while von der Leyen was sent to the sofa (photo):

Von der Leyen was treated as “number two.” However, it became known that Michel's protocol service discussed the details of the visit with the Turkish government and approved this seating arrangement during the negotiations.

Now the conflict between the leaders of the two structures of the European Union has reached a new level.


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