In February, the CDU federal executive board unanimously nominated EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as the top candidate for the European elections at the beginning of June. CSU boss Markus Söder wrote on Platform X that the politician from Lower Saxony was “of course the Union’s top candidate”. “The CSU will provide them with strong support.” In March, von der Leyen officially became the candidate of the European party family EPP for a second term as President of the EU Commission. The CDU politician was formally installed at a congress in the Romanian capital Bucharest. In a speech at the time, von der Leyen named the fight for peace, security, freedom and prosperity as a focus of her election campaign. “The signal from Bucharest today is that the EPP stands for Europe, for a strong, secure, peaceful, prosperous, democratic and united Europe,” said the 65-year-old. She also announced a determined commitment to the interests of farmers and small and medium-sized businesses. With a view to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, von der Leyen emphasized that the aim was to continue to help Kiev – “for as long as necessary”. She reiterated that the EPP supports the plan to create a new post of Defense Commissioner in the future Commission.

As President of the EU Commission, von der Leyen has been in charge of around 32,000 employees since December 1, 2019, who, among other things, make proposals for new EU laws and monitor compliance with the European Treaties. The 65-year-old also sits at the table as an EU representative at almost all major international summits such as the G7 or G20. The US magazine “Forbes” recently named von der Leyen the “most powerful woman in the world”.

One of the most experienced European politicians among the German candidates: The CSU man has sat in the European Parliament since 2004. In 2019 he was aiming for the office of Commission President, which ultimately went to von der Leyen. Because of an impending shift to the right in the EU Parliament, he described the June election as a “destined election.” The question of whether Europe can be held together in the face of the rise of nationalism must be on everyone’s mind. And the CSU will defend what the founding fathers have built: If the AfD says that this Europe must die, then Neither will say: This Europe will be defended, strengthened and led into the future “because it stands for peace and prosperity.” He sees the issue of migration as the key: “We have to solve the issue now and everyone who refuses this solution bears great responsibility.” Weber also wants to weaken the planned ban on combustion engines from 2035.

As a member of the Bundestag, she first gained experience in Berlin, and now as Vice President of the EU Parliament also in Brussels and Strasbourg. Barley has announced a tough election campaign against the AfD. “Seriously suggesting that Germany, which is located in the middle of Europe and where one in five jobs depends on the EU, leaves the EU is insane,” said the European politician. For her own party, Barley has set an election target of a result above the historically low 15.8 percent from 2019. “Of course I would like to achieve more than that for the SPD – and the SPD deserves that,” said the SPD politician. The social democrat is hoping for a turnaround and tailwind from Berlin.

“Combative in Europe” – this is the slogan under which the FDP is running with defence politician Strack-Zimmermann, who likes to call herself a “Eurofighter”. The 66-year-old wants a strong and defensive Europe. “For the EU, we need less von der Leyen and more of freedom. The populists on the right and left want to come to Europe to destroy it from within. We cannot allow that, I will not allow it,” she made clear. “I want to fight for Europe with all of you.” The combative politician is also committed to European defence.

Despite being only 36 years old, Reintke has already had a long career as an EU politician. Theresa “Terry” Reintke came to the European Parliament in 2014 as the youngest Green MP at the time. For a year she has been co-chair of the Greens/European Free Alliance faction, which includes MPs from 17 countries. In November she was elected the top candidate of the German Greens at the federal party conference in Karlsruhe with 95.2 percent. The transformation of the economy is one of the topics that Reintke represents in Brussels and Strasbourg. Reintke fights in the EU Parliament not only for climate policy and social justice, but also for women’s rights and gender equality. Reintke is in a relationship with French Green Party politician Melanie Vogel, a senator in the French upper house. She advocates for queer people to come out and take their place in society.

As the top candidate of the European Greens, things could really go up for the convinced European politician: there may even be a position as EU Commissioner. Any EU member state can submit a proposal to fill a position in the Commission. However, Reintke would only have a chance if Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) is not re-elected. The coalition agreement of the traffic light parties states: “The right to propose the European Commissioner lies with Alliance 90/The Greens, provided the Commission President is not from Germany.”

The Saxon MEP Maximilian Krah was elected as the top candidate with 65.7 percent approval. His candidacy was also supported by the party’s far-right camp. Krah is controversial in the AfD. He has caused several problems in the EU Parliament because of him. The right-wing nationalist Identity and Democracy (ID) group suspended him for three months at the beginning of the year. The accusation was that Krah had manipulated the awarding of a PR contract by the group. His membership in the group had already been suspended for several months in 2022. At that time, he was accused of not supporting Marine Le Pen of the ID member party Rassemblement National in the French presidential election campaign, but publicly supporting the party of the right-wing extremist Éric Zemmour.

Krah focused heavily on the topic of patriotism in his application speech. “We want to make the whole of Germany a big mountain of sunshine,” said the MEP, referring to the first district administrator position for the AfD, which it won in the Thuringian district in June. The AfD “finally has something to say”. The 46-year-old called out to the delegates in Magdeburg: “We are one people because when we show our family albums, we recognize that our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers are already one people.” Recently, an espionage scandal involving one of his now former employees made headlines. Accusations of financial support from Russia and China also weigh on the politician. Krah is therefore taking a back seat in the European election campaign.

Schirdewan’s political base is in Thuringia. Although he does not want to associate himself with any party wing, he is considered a pragmatist and wants to strengthen the left’s profile “as a modern socialist justice party.” In the European Parliament, the grandson of the former SED politician Karl Schirdewan focuses primarily on tax justice, fair financial policy and the control of large corporations. His colleague Carola Rackete became internationally known as the captain of the “Sea-Watch”: In June 2019, she rescued 53 people from the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya and, after weeks of waiting, went to the port of the island of Lampedusa, contrary to the Italian authorities’ ban. Rackete is annoyed that she is still perceived primarily as a “refugee captain”. She sees her focus as a MEP in climate policy, she said in Augsburg: “The biggest social crisis of this time is the climate crisis, it affects every aspect of human life, it makes every social problem even worse.”

The long-time left-wing politician de Masi likes to refer to his Italian grandfather, who fought as a partisan against the fascists. De Masi sat for the left in the European Parliament from 2014 to 2017, his focus was the fight against money laundering and tax evasion. The graduate economist then represented the Left in the Bundestag until 2021 and was chairman of the parliamentary group in the investigative committee into the scandal surrounding the financial service provider Wirecard. The 43-year-old was a co-founder of the “Get Up” alliance initiated by Wagenknecht in 2018. The German-Italian, who was born in Hesse, left the party in 2022 out of criticism of the Left’s course – and actually no longer wanted to be politically active.

Thomas Geisel was the SPD mayor of Düsseldorf for six years until he lost his office to the CDU in 2020. After 40 years of SPD membership, the father of five daughters joined the Wagenknecht alliance at the beginning of January. As mayor, he experienced some of Brussels’ requirements for the local level as “overreaching”, but he remained a “passionate European”.

The Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) is relying entirely on the traction of its namesake in its campaign for the European elections on June 9th. In terms of content, the BSW wants to work, among other things, “for Europe to become a power for peace again”. The BSW top candidates for the European elections, Fabio de Masi and Thomas Geisel, can also be seen on smaller election posters. When asked why Wagenknecht is featured so prominently even though she is not running for the European Parliament, co-party leader Mohamed Ali referred to the BSW founder’s fame. In the first election in which the party is running, it makes sense for Wagenknecht to be the focus.

The farmer, who runs a dairy farm with her family, would like to get involved in the EU Parliament as a practitioner. “I would like to bring my local knowledge into European politics, I know where the problem really is: decisions must be made more in the interests of the regions again. Laws must be made suitable for everyday use again and not cause more problems for those affected than for them to provide relief.” Among other things, she wants to relieve the burden on medium-sized businesses, adapt standards for EU imports, more self-sufficiency and fewer dependencies and a stronger European defense and security policy.

The satirical party “The Party” is heading into the European election campaign with its chairman Martin Sonneborn and writer Sibylle Berg at the helm. The two were voted into the top two places on the list in Mainz in September, as Sonneborn said. In the last European elections, “The Party” won two places in the European Parliament, the satirist NiKo Semsrott then announced his departure from the party at the beginning of 2021, so that ultimately only Sonneborn represented “The Party” in the parliament.

The animal protection party is entering the race with a trio. Lead candidate Everding and his colleagues want to “expand the commitment that we have already built up at the local level in the European Parliament.” The party was able to win a mandate in the European Parliament in 2014 and 2019. Now we see the chance that all three will make it to Brussels. At the top of our political agenda is animal welfare, but also greater commitment to climate neutrality, a humane asylum policy and the harmonization of social systems.

Ripa has been sitting for the ÖDP in the EU Parliament for four years, where she says she is committed to “an ecological and sustainable Europe”. The ecological democratic politician’s heart beats for environmental and climate protection, animal welfare and consumer protection. According to his own statements, Ripa was raised bilingual in German and Italian. Because of her proximity to France and Luxembourg, she developed a European consciousness from an early age.

The Pirate Party had already presented its twenty-strong electoral list in June last year – almost a year before the European Parliament elections. A trio are the top candidates here. They want to make a difference in Europe, particularly in the area of ​​digital, said top candidate Hirschel. “We are the digital competence that other parties lack in politics. (…) I want to be the voice of freedom in Europe to protect people from the EU Commission’s surveillance fanaticism, because no one else will do it.” Civil rights and civil liberties are an important concern for the three candidates in the election campaign.

Also a trio – including father and son. Until recently, Helmut Geuking sat in the European Parliament; his son Niels took over. The Family Party wants to make the EU more family-friendly, a European child benefit and a child-care salary. She also wants more children to be born again and parents to have more time for their children. The party demands that raising children and working life should be better compatible.

The Volt party has fielded 30 candidates – four of whom make up the top team. The party wants to reform Europe, with a focus on social justice and climate protection. Another topic in the election campaign is an “innovation-friendly, competitive and digital economy”. Above all, the quartet is concerned with the fight against right-wing populism in Europe. “Let’s counter the anti-democratic tendencies with a positive vision of Europe! I’m not finished yet – and Volt is just getting started!” says the European Parliamentarian. His colleague Nela Riehl adds: “Illiberal tendencies are increasing in Europe. It is our duty to ensure that human rights become non-negotiable!”

Sources: News agencies AFP, DPA and Reuters, FDP, Free Voters, People Animal Protection Environment Party, ÖDP, Pirate Party, Family Party of Germany, Volt, Deutschlandfunk

Images: AFP, DPA, Imago Images, Volt, Family Party, ÖDP, Animal Welfare Party