Going back to the appointment of Ursula von der Leyen a couple of years ago, it was hard to understand the enthusiastic support from French President Emmanuel Macron that spelled her successful candidacy. What, we wondered, could he see in her to justify such backing other than the odd fact that she had grown up in Brussels and was a fluent French speaker. Now we know better from her and his words and deeds: they are both unscrupulous political chameleons at the tactical level while pursuing purely ideological objectives at the strategic level, divorced from national interests, divorced from common sense, divorced from the people they purport to serve.
The ideology in common that they pursue is federalism and ever greater union as the guiding principles for the EU. Fanning the fire of Cold War enmity towards the big neighbor to the East is one way of holding power and bringing all EU elites into line with Diktats from Brussels.
It was in the same time frame as von der Leyen’s election that Macron pooled his Republique en marche party’s Members of the European Parliament with the liberal democrat – pro federalist bloc ALDE that was long headed by Guy Verhofstandt. That also seemed a bit peculiar when the successor bloc in the European Parliament named Renew Europe was formed. Verhofstadt’s MEPs had been among the loudest and most obnoxious Russia-bashers in the Parliament, sponsors of a “European Magnitsky Act”, buddies of Bill Browder, who was a leading force behind adoption of the original Magnitsky Act by the US Congress, buddies of Boris Nemtsov and any/all opponents to Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Macron was talking outreach to Putin and accommodation with Russia in the common “European House” and spouting détente clichés going back to the DeGaulle period.
However, more recently, Macron has sidestepped his positions on Russia dating from 2019 as if they never existed and has become a full-blown Cold Warrior. In the past week, he spoke out publicly against the “new warfare” supposedly being waged against the West by Russia and China in the form of their “vaccine diplomacy”, meaning the promotion of their respective Covid-19 vaccines to both developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and even to Member States of the European Union.
Macron’s ideological positions as Cold Warrior now match up perfectly with those of former German Defense Minister, today’s President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Among the many tell-tale signs of who she is and what she is about, I point to her re-programming the EU’s senior diplomat Josep Borrel after his missteps in the Kremlin in early February when he spoke flatteringly of the Sputnik V vaccine, as something that would soon be welcomed in the EU.
Though her public utterances are vague, von der Leyen’s feet are pointed unmistakably: no way in hell will she see the Russian vaccine approved. Every trick in the book is being deployed to delay, read stymie it.
In this context, and keeping in mind the pending gross violation of the overarching rule of all EU etiquette “Go along and get along” we must give our full attention to what the The Financial Times reported an hour ago about Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. He is said to be in negotiation with Russia to buy 1 million doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine following a direct telephone discussion with…Vladimir Putin.
This is, says the FT, in line with Kurz’s fierce criticism of the way the European Commission has mismanaged the entire procurement and distribution of Covid vaccines from the get-go. And this mismanagement goes back to the desk of one person: Ursula von der Leyen. Such a reading of the situation is, by the way, widely shared in neighboring Bavaria and more generally throughout Germany.
If anything brings down the CDU-dominated coalition government in Germany in their September elections it will be the way Chancellor Merkel agreed to von der Leyen’s scheme for Brussels to take charge of the Covid vaccine program. Now Kurz, by his latest actions, will be actively feeding that German discontent.
Returning to my opening remarks about the Cold War ideology being spouted by Macron and implemented by von der Leyen, it is well worth listening to Sebastian Kurz’s thoughts as quoted in the Financial Times online edition a few minutes ago:
“When it comes to the vaccine, there must be no geopolitical blinkers. The only thing that should count is whether the vaccine is effective and safe, not where it comes from.
“If Austria gets 1 m additional doses of vaccine, an earlier return to normality would be possible and we can save many lives as well as jobs.”
Somehow these concerns are not shared by Macron, not shared by von der Leyen. There is a good chance that Macron will lose his re-election bid next year for a host of reasons, including his government’s disastrous handling of the Covid crisis at home. Von der Leyen was never popularly elected, but she can and should be recalled by the MEPs, the sooner, the better.