German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has been nominated as European Commission President, attends a news conference during a visit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
BERLIN (Reuters) – European leaders’ nomination of Ursula von der Leyen to head the European Commission did not give the Social Democrats (SPD) reason to quit Germany’s ruling coalition, a party leader said on Thursday.
The European Council’s decision this week to nominate the German defense minister angered many in the SPD, who saw it as Chancellor Angela Merkel reneging on a commitment to back a winner of the European Parliament elections for the job.
Former SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said the decision, without cabinet approval, gave grounds to end the governing coalition in Berlin.
But Malu Dreyer, head of the Rhineland-Palatinate regional government and one of three acting SPD leaders, told ZDF public television: “I would not go that far, because I can’t charge Mrs. Merkel with violating the coalition agreement.
“She abstained in the vote in the Council.”
Merkel was the only one of the leaders not to vote for her close ally in Monday’s European Council after an hour-long attempt to win over her coalition partners proved fruitless.
The SPD suffered its worst showing nationwide since democracy returned after World War Two in the European election on May 26. Many in the SPD want an end to their alliance with Merkel’s conservative bloc.
Markus Soeder, conservative premier of Bavaria, said: “The SPD has made sure that Germany was the only country in the Council that couldn’t vote for Germany.
“That’s surely unique in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, and a real burden on the coalition.”
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Janet Lawrence