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Von der Leyen’s 2nd-term pitch: More military might, less climate talk

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, is positioning herself for re-election with a shift in focus towards bolstering military capabilities and easing off aggressive climate change rhetoric.
Her re-election bid, declared on a Monday, prioritizes increasing European competitiveness, which now encapsulates stronger defense, prioritizing European products, and more business-friendly environmental legislation.

Faced with geopolitical challenges such as Russia's ongoing conflict and uncertain U.S. support, von der Leyen emphasizes defense collaboration among EU nations and proposes appointing an EU defense commissioner. Concurrently, she proposes more lenient climate regulations and seeks input from businesses to meet their needs.

At 65, von der Leyen must balance maintaining her environmental and digital legacy with the evolving political landscape, which sees a potential shift towards the right in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

While her first term celebrated the European Green Deal, public concerns have now pivoted to economic worries, security issues, and immigration, overshadowing climate urgency.

Despite scientific advisors urging more action on climate goals, especially in agriculture, von der Leyen's Monday press conference barely touched on the subject, instead highlighting competitiveness and defense.

Her re-election strategy seeks to align with the desires of her center-right European People’s Party and the broader electorate, aiming to be the fourth Commission President to secure a second term.

For re-election, von der Leyen requires endorsement from European leaders and parliamentary confirmation post-June elections. Previously supported by a narrow majority of pro-European parties, she may now encounter a tougher coalition-building process, with a rise in far-right popularity.

Von der Leyen concluded with a call for voters to bolster moderate politics, signaling her candidacy with a nuanced approach that seeks to unite conservative values and resist far-right influences.

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