In her September 13 State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen walked the fine line between highlighting past achievements and making promises for the future. While she refrained from explicitly declaring her intention to seek a second term, her address dropped hints that she might be eyeing a continuation in office.
As the next European Parliament elections draw near, the direction of the EU’s future, and potentially von der Leyen’s role in shaping it, becomes increasingly important. Although her speech left some crucial issues unaddressed, like the eurozone’s fiscal regime, she focused on long-term challenges, including the need to address unfair competition from China in the electric car industry, signalling her intent to stay engaged with EU affairs beyond her current mandate.
The speech is forward-looking, spanning from 2024 to 2029, with a centrist inclination. This aligns with the general assumption that her primary goal is to remain a consensus candidate, and build support within the EPP and among a broader spectrum of EU voters. Signs pointing in this direction are also found outside the Brussels bubble. Reports by German regional newspaper Rundblick Niedersachsen suggest that she may opt not to run for a European Parliament seat in her home region of Lower Saxony. Instead, she could position herself exclusively as the EPP’s Spitzenkandidatin for the EU elections, allowing her to campaign across all 27 EU member states.