Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to head the European Commission, has shown fortitude and strength over a year marked by economic turmoil, the war in Ukraine and the continuing pandemic.
In his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament last September, Ursula von der Leyen, the first female president of the European Commission, delivered an eye-catching visual political message. Wearing a bright yellow blazer and royal blue shirt, the Commission President personified the Ukrainian flag in front of the European Union’s 12-star golden flag.
This is a war against our energy security, against our economy, against our values and against our future. Ursula von der Leyen said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “an authoritarian war against democracy”. The Commissioner also pledged: “And I would like to make it clear: sanctions are not about to be lifted. Now is the time for determination, not appeasement.”
Some European citizens face a cold winter without Russian natural gas to heat their homes. Others are on the front line if the Russian president Vladimir Putin He decides to expand his conquest. Somehow Ursula von der Leyen managed to convince these compatriots that sacrifices were necessary to show a united front against Vladimir Putin. Elected in 2019, the Commission’s president manages billions of euros in the EU’s annual budget and strives to build consensus with 27 heads of state who represent 450 million European citizens.
Last year, Ursula von der Leyen was ranked eighth Forbes Among the 100 most influential women in the world. This year, she took first place because of her strong and decisive support for Ukraine. It, too, is showing continued leadership in helping Europe overcome the pandemic.
Its support for Ukraine has been swift and varied. Barely a week after the first bombings over Kiev in February, Ursula von der Leyen vowed to ban Russian central bank transactions on European soil, close Union skies to Russian planes and ban news agencies controlled by the Kremlin. In April, she became the most senior EU official to visit Ukraine and meet the president Volodymyr Zelensky. In May, it imposed a new round of tougher sanctions on Russia, this time asking European leaders to agree to a “comprehensive embargo” on Russian crude oil. Some votes were raised to criticize the inaccuracy of this proposal, but in June Ursula von der Leyen announced a measure to cut Russian oil imports into the EU by 90%.
“She’s really on top of her game now,” she says. Forbes Matthias MattisProject manager for Europe Council on Foreign Relations (American think tank) and assistant professor at School of Advanced International Studies affiliate Johns Hopkins University. While Ursula von der Leyen wasn’t the only world leader to have imposed sanctions on Russia, Matthias Mattis believes the commission chair had the toughest task: She had to convince her constituents that sanctions were the right thing to do, the things to do.
“You have to negotiate a consensus among the 27 member states, which are very different culturally,” he explains Anya LangenbucherDirector of the European Office of the Gates Foundation. And she’s really amazing at it. The Gates Foundation has awarded Ursula von der Leyen its Global Goalkeeper of the Year 2022 in recognition of her leadership in Europe’s post-coronavirus recovery, after the president spearheaded an aid package of 800 billion euros in the summer of 2020 and entered into force in 2021.
We have brought to the surface the inner strength of Europe. And we’ll need all that power. »
Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen, a mother of seven and former physician, can draw on her experience in de-escalating conflicts. She first worked as a doctor in a women’s clinic in her native Germany. She only entered politics in her early 40s, then rose through the ranks to become Federal Minister for Family and Youth in 2005. She helped launch major reforms to Germany’s childcare system. From 2013 to 2019, she served as Germany’s first female defense minister.
“It was great in terms of creating parenting planning and child care that hadn’t existed in Germany before,” she says. Vivian SchmidtProfessor of International Relations at Boston University and founding director of Europe Studies Centre.
According to Vivian Schmidt, the program that Ursula von der Leyen prepared before her election in 2019 largely explains why she was able to act decisively on the plan to help coronavirus victims. This agenda seemed “unrealistic” in 2019, but in the context of lockdowns and economic uncertainty in 2020, Ursula von der Leyen’s ideas on addressing social inequalities, strengthening Europe’s environmental commitments and accelerating digital transformation were seen as essential.
“It has a sense of the moment,” says Vivian Schmidt. “And she has, I think, a very strong moral sense of what is right.”
For now, that moral sense means continuing to confront Russia. On November 30, Ursula von der Leyen proposed creating a special tribunal to investigate Russia’s alleged war crimes and prosecute those responsible.
“We have brought to the surface the inner strength of Europe,” said Ursula von der Leyen. “And we’ll need all that strength.”
Translated article from Forbes US – Author: Maggie McGrath
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