Von der Leyen branded ‘one of the weakest European Commission presidents in EU history’

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The incendiary attack, from a prominent academic, followed her annual State of the Union address earlier this week. Ms von der Leyen used the occasion to champion the EU’s record on coronavirus vaccines, commenting: “Today, and against all critics, Europe is among the world leaders.

“We did it the right way because we did it the European way. And it worked.”

She vowed the EU will provide another 200 million coronavirus jabs to the developing world, by the middle of next year.

However her speech was attacked by Alberto Alemanno, professor of EU law at HEC Paris.

He argued the EU was proving unable to “come up with any new initiative” and “remains reactive”.

Writing for Euro News Mr Alemanno said: “Von der Leyen’s speech embraced a rather solemn (‘I see a strong soul in everything that we do’), self-complacent (‘COVID: We did it the right way’), and sloganeering (‘And in the gravest planetary crisis of all time, again we chose to go it together with the European Green Deal’) tone regarding her past achievements.

“In a moment of Covid-imposed transformation, Europeans deserve more than a laundry list of policy measures that, let’s be frank, were imposed on us, and not chosen, by events.

“The EU political process alone proved unable to proactively come up with any new initiative.

“In essence, EU action remains reactive, and largely directed and shaped by member states’ interests, the sum of which tend not to coincide with the EU interest.

“Since the Commission’s job is to identify and advance that interest, von der Leyen emerges as one of the least politically autonomous, and therefore one of the weakest, presidents of the European Commission in EU history.”

On Wednesday the UK, UK and Australia announced a new military alliance called AUKUS.

A spokesperson for Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, admitted Brussels was not given advanced warning of the deal.

Mr Alemanno argued the EU has become less “strategically autonomous” over the past year, as it has struggled to deal with growing authoritarianism in Hungary and Poland.

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Brussels has clashed with both Warsaw and Budapest over judicial independence and the rule of law.

However, it has been unable to successfully restrain either member state.

Mr Alemanno wrote: “The truth is that over the past year the EU has become less, not more, strategically autonomous due to its major regression on the rule of law, and its inability to counter this internal crisis in countries like Poland and Hungary.

“In other words, how can the EU increase self-sufficiency — from semi-conductor manufacturing to defence — at the very same time it departs from its foundational self-organisational principle of the rule of law?

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“Historically, what brought together – and kept together – EU countries is not only a set of shared rules, but also and especially a deeper commitment to abide by them.

“Yet recent events, from the EU response to coronavirus — both as a health and financial crisis — are putting into doubt the Union’s adherence to, and relationship with, the rule of law.

“This might have consequential effects for the Union’s future.”

The EU remains locked in a dispute with Britain over the controversial Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Johnson’s Government is demanding this is substantially altered, following unionist fury in the province.

Under the protocol’s terms some checks have been introduced on trade between Northern Ireland, and the rest of the UK.
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