Who is von der Leyen? Will the EU have a lack of “attitude” and “leadership?”

Ursula von der Leyen – Picture: Dirk Vorderstraße

A look on the person that will be the first President of the EU commission that will have to face a parliamentary investigation.

Social minister in the minestry of defence

The beginning of her career was stamped by social politics. She was social Minister in the Region of Niedersachsen when the first Merkel government brought her to Berlin as a family minister in 2005. In 2009 she became German minister for work and social aspects. In these positions, the mother of seven children was seen as successful by media and population. As Merkel confided she was even traded as her successor as chancellor. All that ended soon when she became Minister of defence in 2013.

One of the main reasons was that she never became minister of defence in practice but always wanted to make what made her successful: social politics. She wanted to build kinder gardens in army bases, she preferred to 650000 invest in uniforms of pregnant female servants while this money was much more needed in new protection wests. And she annoyed the German soldiers in courses and publications about LGBT topics and renegotiating army traditions. She delighted the real tasks of her position to private business consultans which displeased the people in charge of army and defence Ministery with a lot more bureaucracy.

Results of problematic management

Big achievements are not seen yet. What is seen that key tasks are not possible to be achieved any more. The navy has a lack of reliable tankers for the Nato. The soldiers serving in the Baltic states had to face a shortish of tents, winter and protection clothing. The Flugbereitschaft (the military organised planes for German politicians) bring high politicians more and more often in the embarrassing positions to be late or can not come back easily. And also, the readiness for action reached a full-time low. Out of the long list of gaps just four numbers: 244 Leopard II tanks, just 95 had been ready, of the 6 submarines just 50 per cent. Of 128 Eurofighters just 39 could fly, the same situation as for the 72 CH-53 helicopters from which just 16 had been ready.

These numbers are caused by a blind eye for the future, the missing investment in repair parts and too strict civil laws; a fact that a good minister of defence would have foreseen and impeded.

Von der Leyens oil in the fire of scandals

But the most prominent blunder in her tenure was the mistrust to her soldiers, her profiling on their back and the relying on private company consultants based on this mistrust. From the many cases when she worked against her servants two are mentioned here.

In an army with 181000 active servants, it is likely that some of them are extremists, besides all the efforts to prevent this. It was always the case that around 200-300 Soldiers had to face dismissal or disciplinary punishments because of political misbehaviour. This number did not rose under von der Leyen. There had been also in each year a minimal number of sexual assaults or scandals over draconic traditions or rituals. What changed was the reaction of the highest person in charge. The probably most prominent example happened around the scandal of an army officer who created a faked identity as a refugee in 2015 and who is since 2017 suspected to have planned a terrorist attack. Her reaction was to accuse the full Bundeswehr to have “an attitude problem” and a “weakness in leadership”. In all the army bases soldiers without “name and rank” showed up, to search for nazi connected material and devotional objects. She stopped the print of the Kameraden singt! (soldiers songbook) that never had been printed again. But some important songs like the famous Panzerlied had been officially deleted because it had been also been sung in the Wehrmacht.

In 2017 she also showed who to deal with problems, when there had been media articles about organised sexual harassment in the medical training of the Bundeswehr base. She ignored the reports that tended that the actual facts tend to show a much smaller case. But she dismissed the high ranked General that informed her correctly and the Officer responsible the base. The court later decided that their was no illegal behaviour.

Von der Leyen goes to Burxelles, a good day for the Bundeswehr – a bad day for the EU?

The sheme was always the same. When there had been a scandal, she made it bigger on the disadvantage of her servants. Now most soldiers will gasp of relief that this nightmare finds an end.

Without this new position she would highly probably lose her charge in the next months. Not because she failed to make the Bundeswehr ready for the future or give its soldiers always what they need. Many of the business consultants seem to had been her friends before. So it’s likely to be a case of nepotism. Merkel created for her long term ally a whole to escape. Her designation to the position as EU Commission president is a clear example of failing to the top. Let us see whether the European Union will soon also have a lack of “attitude” and “leadership”.

  • Parts of this Article had been first published at expres.cz.

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