Ursula von der Leyen’s performance as European Commission president was slammed by the lead candidate for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, on Saturday (27 April), citing prescriptive climate policy and bad approval ratings among businesses.
EU liberals’ lead candidate slams von der Leyen’s ‘extremely poor’ performance

Speaking to Euractiv on the sidelines of the two-day convention of German liberal coalition party FDP in Berlin, Strack-Zimmermann questioned voting for a second term of von der Leyen.

“I think her performance is extremely poor,” said Strack-Zimmermann – an FDP member who’s been formally presented last month as ALDE’s lead candidate within the election race for the liberal ‘Renew Europe Now’ platform – of which ALDE represents the largest faction.

“When 95% of all [German] companies say that they have problems with bureaucracy in Brussels, that actually says a lot,” she said, citing a survey by German business chamber DIHK that found only 5% of companies saw European business conditions improve over the last five years.

Strack-Zimmermann also attacked von der Leyen’s climate policies, which she considered too restrictive. They have “shown no consideration for companies, especially SMEs.”

“I don’t see why we should elect someone who – just using the example of combustion engines – has called for a ban all the time [but] says two months before the election: We’ll think about it again,” she added.

While updated CO2 standards for cars, which would de facto ban new cars with an internal combustion engine starting from 2035, were proposed under von der Leyen’s watch as Commission president and approved in March last year, her party CDU recently called for “abolishing” the policy in its EU election manifesto.

FDP insisted on e-fuels during combustion engine saga

In her first term, von der Leyen was supported by all three largest groups in the EU house, including Renew Europe group – whose other two lead candidates for June’s elections are France’s Valérie Hayer, of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance, and Italy’s Sandro Gozi, secretary-general of the European Democratic Party (EDP). 

Renew Europe has supported a progressive climate policy during the last legislative term, particularly under the leadership of Renaissance and other liberal parties.

However, German member FDP has opposed many of the current Commission’s green laws, such as the combustion engine ban. Under last-minute pressure by FDP Transport Minister Volker Wissing, Germany insisted on adding an exception for cars running exclusively on climate-neutral fuels to that measure.

“This is now included because the FDP, the Liberals, demanded it,” Strack-Zimmermann said, adding: “If that hadn’t been demanded, the end of the combustion engine would have come without considering alternative fuels”.

By relying exclusively on electric-battery vehicles, “we are making ourselves dependent again,” she warned. “We will no longer have gas and oil from Russia, but battery technology from China.”

Emissions trading, nothing else needed

During her speech at the FDP party convention on Saturday, Strack-Zimmermann mentioned the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) as the core of the bloc’s climate policy, making additional measures unnecessary.

Initially introduced in 2005, the system caps emissions for sectors such as industry and electricity. As of 2027, heating and road transport will also be included in a separate pricing scheme.

“Twenty years ago, the European Union was a global innovator by introducing the first comprehensive CO2 emissions trading scheme,” Strack-Zimmermann told the convention, calling it “a true pioneering act that combined climate protection with market-based means”.

“Under Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal, the EU has been shot back into the climate protection Middle Ages,” adding that “a confusing number of sector regulations has led to an unprecedented increase in European bureaucracy.”

Speaking to Euractiv, Strack-Zimmermann cited the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED)—one of the laws updated under the Commission’s 2021 climate policy package “Fit for 55”—as an example.

Under the revised EED, EU countries are mandated to reduce final energy use by 1.3% to 1.9% annually from 2024 to 2030, in parallel with efforts to increase the proportion of energy coming from renewable sources. The Commission says that both obligations must be fulfilled if the bloc is to reach its 2030 climate targets.

“If you cap energy and even include renewable energy, then that’s stupid if you’ll pardon the expression,” Strack-Zimmermann said.

Source: euractiv.com


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