Brussels insider slaps down EU chief Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen needs to remember she is a “just a civil servant”, a Brussels insider has said, days after the European Commission President was accused of acting like a “queen”.

Pieter Cleppe, Editor-in-chief of, offered his withering assessment after an unnamed Brussels official suggested the former German defence minister was “behaving like a queen” in reaction to her decision to visit Israel after the Hamas terror attacks.

Writing for, Mr Cleppe, who headed up the Brussels office of award-winning British EU affairs policy think tank Open Europe for 12 years, said: “With the new outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas, European Commission President von der Leyen seems to have abandoned all concern for whatever EU member states may think about the things she says abroad.

“In the first days after the terrible Hamas terror raid on Israel, she went all in, supporting Israel.

“Her actions caused a lot of tensions, not so much because of her precise stance, but because of the fact that it was clearly not in line with EU member states.

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“France openly reminded von der Leyen that she was only speaking in the name of the European Commission, not necessarily of EU member states.”

When it came to the war in Ukraine, Ms von der Leyen had made similarly “assertive statements”, Mr Cleppe pointed out, albeit generally there was more consensus within the bloc on that topic.

He continued: “The whole thing reminds us all of the fact that the EU’s 27 democracies have different electorates, with different opinions on foreign policy. To reconcile these is not always evident.

“It is therefore best left to the national diplomatic services, as these are closely in touch with national Parliaments.

“Whenever a national Foreign Minister would dare to make certain moves that are not in line with the democratic majority in a member state thinks, he or she is bound to be called to provide an explanation in Parliament.”

At an EU level, such scrutiny did not exist, Mr Cleppe warned.

He explained: “The EU’s foreign service, called European External Action Service (EEAS), is mostly duplicating the work of national foreign ministries while promoting a strong common European message at best.”

Referring to the bloc’s top diplomat and the President of the European Council respectively, he said: “Ultimately, somebody should remind Ursula von der Leyen, Josep Borrell and Charles Michel that they are no longer politicians, even if they were once.

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“They are now civil servants, appointed by EU member states, and very much at their service.”

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday insisted there is a “great degree of unity” within the EU on the Israel-Hamas conflict, after earlier saying some of the comments from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have “lacked balance”.

Mr Varadkar was speaking after a meeting of the heads of government of the 27 member states with Ms von der Leyen, Mr Michel and Mr Borrell.

The Irish leader said EU countries will work together to open a humanitarian corridor to Gaza, with aid beginning to trickle through as of yesterday.

Speaking the meeting, Mr Varadkar said: “There is strong condemnation of Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel, its use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and taking of hostages as well.

“A lot of solidarity for France, for Belgium and for Sweden who’ve experienced terrorist attacks in the last couple of days and the real fear that we’ll see more of that happening in Europe.”

Ms von der Leyen yesterday tweeted: “I welcome the opening of the Rafah border crossing point to Gaza for humanitarian aid.

“This is an important first step that will alleviate the suffering of innocent people.

“My thanks go to all those involved who made this possible.”

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