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

By Barbara Moens, Zia Weise, Hans von der Burchard | 02/21/2024 06:14 AM EST

The European Commission president walks a fine line between defending her green legacy and locking in support for another run.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Ursula von der Leyen's own party is the loudest advocate for a pause in environmental lawmaking. Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Behold Ursula von der Leyen’s transformation from green dove to military hawk.

As the European Commission president announced her bid for another term Monday, von der Leyen was unequivocal: Her ambition is now to make Europe more “competitive” — a catch-all word that in 2024 means more military might, more Europe First purchases and more industry-friendly climate rules.

For the former German defense minister, the message reflects the current geopolitical climate. Europe is struggling with Russia’s warmongering, which is entering a third year just as U.S. support for Ukraine stalls and Donald Trump stampedes toward another potential White House term, threatening to abandon NATO allies along the way.


The Continent is also awash with anger over its climate policies, with convoys of tractors clogging capitals in protest of looming rules meant to get the EU to climate neutrality by 2050.