European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refused to say if she will put herself forward for a second five-year term in the Berlaymont.
“Nice try,” the German conservative told POLITICO with a large grin after being asked if she was running again, as she stepped out of a meeting with top MEPs in the European Parliament on Wednesday, surrounded by aides and bodyguards.
Speculation is bubbling in Brussels about what von der Leyen will do after the European election next June, which will spark a reset of the bloc’s top jobs. Her name has also cropped up in discussions about who will succeed Jens Stoltenberg as secretary-general of NATO.
Even if she does declare an intention to stay in the Commission post, there is a major question mark about whether she would embrace the informal lead candidate (or Spitzenkandidat) process, or expect to be simply appointed as happened in 2019.
Von der Leyen spent over an hour with the heads of the Parliament’s political groups, in a closed-door meeting to receive input ahead of her flagship State of the Union address in Strasbourg next week, where she will set out the EU’s policy priorities before next year’s election.
As the meeting room doors swung open, she could be seen chatting to the co-chair of the Greens, Philippe Lamberts, and planting two kisses on the cheeks of Socialist chief Iratxe García, and also Manfred Weber, who heads her own European People’s Party.
Asked directly whether von der Leyen should put herself forward, Weber did not explicitly endorse her, instead suggesting the focus now should be on delivering results.
He said: “The EPP has the Commission presidency in our hands. That’s great for us. We have the first female Commission president there. So we are proud of what we are doing there as EPP and we want to continue. Now it’s a moment to deliver.”
Von der Leyen also avoided responding to a question on the future of the nature restoration law, which her own EPP attempted to blow up in July.
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