SPITTING PORTRAIT – From the start of her career, as a local elected official, to her election to the presidency of the European Commission, the meteoric rise of Ursula von der Leyen is marred by shenanigans, controversies and scandals. The German politician, expected to occupy the highest federal positions (to which she never managed to rise) on the other side of the Rhine, has constantly gained ground since her time at the Ministry of Defense. However, his name is linked to a whole series of major scandals, from his catastrophic budgetary management to his poor administration in the context of SMSGate, linked to the purchase of Pfizer anti-Covid vaccines.
Copy-Past, plagiarism, tampering, it started well!
Ursula von der Leyen obtained her baccalaureate in mathematics and sciences in 1976. She pursued, between 1977 and 1980, several courses in economics, including one at the London School of Economics from which she graduated in 1978. She undertook further studies, this this time in medicine, at the University of Hannover. Seven years at the end of which she became an assistant doctor. She defended her thesis in 1991 to become a doctor, a title called into question 24 years later, when a website announced, in September 2015, that it had detected plagiarized passages in 27 pages of her thesis…
With her medical degree in hand, a housewife after the birth of her twin daughters, she moved to Stanford, California, where her husband, Heiko von der Leyen, was employed by the university. A seemingly innocuous parenthesis, but quite revealing, since Ursula’s stay in California will also be the subject of controversy some twenty years later, when a representative of Stanford will deny in 2015 the information according to which the current President of the European Commission attended this establishment as was mentioned on her CV…
Another Daddy’s Girl, responsible for family. “Zensursula”?
Back in Germany, from 1998 to 2002 she was a research assistant and lecturer at the university where she obtained her diploma seven years previously. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 1990, Ursula von der Leyen did not enter politics until 2001. She was elected to the Hanover region assembly then, two years later, became , at 44, deputy in the assembly of Lower Saxony, where her father, Ernest Albrecht, served as minister-president (1976-1990).
Her rise is rapid and the MP follows in her father’s footsteps. His career alternates between successes and failures. She rose to the post of Minister of Lower Saxony, responsible for Family Affairs. She occupied it for two years. In 2005, Angela Merkel, just elected Chancellor, appointed her Federal Minister of Family.
She then organized numerous reforms to German family policy, establishing a parental salary and encouraging the creation of crèches. But his mandate ended in controversy. Having defended the blocking of child pornography websites, she is given the nickname “Zensursula” (Censursula, Editor’s note).
Without being part of the elephants, she does not shine at Defense.
Appointed Federal Minister of Labor in 2009, she is expected, like her father in 1979, to succeed Horst Köhler, the resigning Federal President. The ruling coalition ultimately preferred Christian Wulff. During her term at Labor, she was elected vice-president of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), chaired by Angela Merkel. The latter named her Federal Minister of Defense in 2013. Ursula von der Leyen is the first woman to access this position and her reappointment in the Merkel 4 government means that she is now being considered to succeed “Mutti”.
At Defense, she accumulates criticism, controversies and scandals. Under his mandate, Berlin decided not to supply Ukraine with weapons during the conflict opposing it to Russia, relying on diplomacy. But breaks with the German tradition of not exporting military equipment to a conflict zone, by arming the Kurdish and Iraqi armed forms against Daesh. But it is his management of the ministry’s budget that is weighing down his popularity. The Germans rank her as one of the two least competent people in the government.
Keine transparentzzzzzzzz and full suitcases… For a hundred bricks, you have nothing left!
Waste, suspicions of favoritism, corruption and conflict of interest… A report from a parliamentary commission of inquiry will reveal in 2019 that nearly 100 million euros were squandered, without control, for the benefit of consultants, private advisors and subcontractors, often selected without any call for tenders. For her opponents, the blonde lady accustomed to Bilderberg meetings, has completely failed as Minister of Defense, she who had precisely committed, upon her arrival, to better manage the budget of this department. In addition, the consulting contracts concealed, according to the report relayed by the press German or Brussels, close ties between senior officials and lobbyists. A procedural flaw that she will never stop carrying around in her suitcases.
After the parliamentary committee, it is the turn of the Federal Court of Auditors of qualifier these “questionable” expenses. Ursula Von der Leyen recognized a “mistake” in 2018 but this affair caught up with her well after her resignation, in 2019, the year in which she was elected president of the European Commission, where her father was a civil servant since 1958…
His candidacy makes people cringe. It breaks with the habit of proposing the head of the list of the party that came first in the European elections. The former German Defense Minister does not help his case during his hearings by the European Parliament and loses, in the process, the votes of a certain number of MEPs. She was nevertheless elected on the wire with 51.3%% of the votes in July 2019. She is committed to making Europe the “first carbon neutral continent” by 2050, through a “green deal” and a sustainable investment plan of 1000 billion euros. A “deal” many times present in Davos during the World Economic Forum, of which Ursula von der Leyen is a member of the Board of Directors.
At the head of the EC, the German is guilty of “bad administration”. She is suspected of nepotism and conflict of interest. It was first her time at the Ministry of Defense that caught up with her, with a summons to a hearing in February 2020 at the Bundestag. A first “SMS Gate” (SMS affair, Editor’s note) broke out, when another parliamentary report announced that the exchanges of the President of the European Commission, considered as evidence by the investigative committee, had been deleted.
SMS too private with the one in Bourla pocket.
In January 2022, another scandal, this time linked to the management of the Covid pandemic, resurfaced. Ursula von der Leyen is roundly criticized for her lack of transparency in the negotiations on a purchase contract for more than 18 billion doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, acquired at very high prices. Negotiations with Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, were conducted for months by SMS as revealed in April 2021 by New York Times.
The European Commission has always refused to reveal these text messages, claiming to have no recording, on the pretext that SMS messages are not governed by the regulations relating to the transparency of the European institutions and are therefore not intended to be kept. In October 2021, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the opening of an investigation into this matter. In January 2022, an EU watchdog, led by ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, found the EC guilty of “maladministration”, describing the Commission’s refusal to provide the SMS, without kicking the can, as “alarming signal”.
Once nepotism, always nepotism!
Is Ursula von der Leyen remaining discreet while waiting for the storm to pass? Not at all. Since these “SMSGate”, the president of the EC has multiplied the interventions, deemed “nepotistic”, to the detriment, again and again, of the rules of transparency. And this is where Heiko von der Leyen, her husband, comes to the forefront. In November 2022, in the midst of the battle in Brussels, the European Commission indirectly finances the American biotechnology company Orgenesis, headed by the good Heiko…
Orgenesis has opened four subsidiaries across Europe, including one in Italy. The license of this subsidiary was nevertheless inactive until October 14, 2022. It nevertheless participated in a call for tenders from the Italian Ministry of Higher Education before being selected to benefit from comfortable funding granted by the EU to Italy…
The granting of a license to sell automobile insurance in Romania to a company managed by Ursula von der Leyen’s brother was then revealed, which, again, caused a reaction in Brussels. Once again, the EC is denying MEPs access to an official report alleging irregularities committed by Romania’s main insurance regulator.
And the same month, the company Eazy Asigurari, a subsidiary of the European gaming giant Superbet, chaired by Hans-Holger Albrecht, obtained a license against all the expectations of most experts in the sector.
“Colossal Corruption” ?
And it’s not over ! The name of Ursula von der Leyen is associated, in May 2023, with another scandal, which this time concerns the procedure for Bulgaria’s accession to the euro zone and the Schengen area. In audio clandestinely recorded during a meeting of the ruling Let’s Keep the Change party, former Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov can be heard saying, reveal the content of a telephone conversation with the President of the European Commission. “I asked him what our chances of being accepted are. She replied: ‘For Schengen, you have a good chance. For the Eurozone, you have to figure out how to get around the rules, i.e. ‘get within the box’. I said, ‘Can we have inflation minus the Ukraine effect?’ And she said to me: ‘Don’t quote me, we’ll try to help you’”.
His proposal to “circumvent the rules” was interpreted as an incitement to fraud, which is reminiscent of the Greek episode when the country joined the euro zone. The Commission denied such comments. “There is a structured process for joining the euro zone (…) The rules must be respected”. Did Ursula von der Leyen make such statements? We may never know. But, as we have just seen, his career is not illustrated by a great respect for procedures and transparency…
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