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Ursula von der Leyen: Europe’s second-rate first lady

On paper the President of the European Commission looked perfect for the job, but her talent isn't a match for her connections and the EU is paying the price

By Andrew Adonis   July 2021

If you had to design a president of the European Commission from scratch, you might come up with Ursula von der Leyen. She is trilingual in English, German and French; studied in Hanover and London; lived in California; and was a right-hand ministerial colleague of Angela Merkel in Berlin. She was even born in Brussels, the daughter of a founding Eurocrat. 

But therein lies her Achilles’s heel. Von der Leyen got into politics following in the footsteps of her father, a power broker in Germany’s dominant centre-right Christian Democratic Union party; but, for all her connections, experience and ambition, high-level political talent has never been evident. She is Europe’s Hillary Clinton. And, of late, her extraordinary bungling over vaccines and the Irish border has tarnished the European Commission and could come to damage the standing of the EU as a whole.

Down the ages, nepotism has more…

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