Scholz Warns Von der Leyen Against Coalition With Populists

(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would only support European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a second term if her center-right European People’s Party can build a stable majority in the next European Parliament without support of the far right.

Most Read from Bloomberg

“A commission president must always rely on the democratic parties of Europe, on a platform including the Social Democrats, the Conservatives, the Liberals,” Scholz said at an event of his center-left Social Democrats in Berlin. “There must not be any far-right or right-wing populist parties.”

Europe’s far-right parties are aiming for gains in elections to the European Parliament that kick off on Thursday. A significant rightward tilt would thrust migration to the top of Europe’s political agenda in the coming years, and complicate progress on the bloc’s ambitious climate agenda.

Von der Leyen, a German, has suggested a possible shift to the right by signaling she’s open to working with parts of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, which includes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

The top candidate of the center-left European Socialists Party (PES), Nicolas Schmit, told Table Media in an interview that he considers Meloni a nationalist and explicitly warned Von der Leyen against any form of cooperation with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party.

“Von der Leyen wants us to believe in good ring-wing extremists,” Schmit said. If Von der Leyen tried an arrangement of power with the far right to secure a second term, she would not be able to count on the support of the PES.

The commission’s top job traditionally goes to a member of the political party that wins the most seats in parliament, which is expected to be Von der Leyen’s EPP. But the former German defense minister has alienated a number of key backers during her five-year term.

Scholz, who didn’t name any particular far-right party, said Germany’s history means it has a special responsibility in Europe. This was a key condition and he is “very serious” about this, the chancellor added.

The parliament is the only directly elected European Union institution. The makeup of the top EU jobs is negotiated behind closed doors by the member states and the commission post needs to be approved by the parliament.

The EPP’s Von der Leyen remains the front-runner, but she has made her share of enemies. French President Emmanuel Macron has floated the idea of installing an alternative candidate.

(Updates with Nicolas Schmit comment in the fifth paragraph.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.