German Chancellor Scholz warns next EU Commission head not to court far-right support

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz issued a warning on Friday, cautioning the next European Commission president against courting support from far-right parties in the upcoming European elections.

Across Europe, left-leaning parties have pressured their moderate conservative and liberal counterparts to reject any collaboration with far-right parties following the European Parliament elections scheduled from June 6-9.

However, a significant rightward shift could complicate matters for the next commission president, who requires the support of a majority in the newly elected pan-European parliament to lead the 27-member bloc effectively with only the backing of traditional political groupings.

“The next commission must not rely on the support of a parliamentary majority that also includes the support of right-wing extremists,” Scholz said after meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, Luis Montenegro, in Berlin.

“I am deeply concerned by the ambiguity in certain recent political statements. However, my position is clear: it will only be possible to establish a European Commission presidency supported by the traditional parties,” Scholz emphasized.

He added, “Anything else would be detrimental to Europe’s future.”

Scholz, a Social Democrat leading an unpopular progressive coalition in Germany, did not specify which statements he was referring to.

Nevertheless, his comments are likely to be interpreted as a warning to current Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a German conservative widely expected to seek a second term.

Von der Leyen belongs to the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament. This center-right coalition has long dominated Brussels in partnership with the center-left Socialists. However, with the changing electoral landscape, she has declined to rule out cooperating with some members of parties further to the right.

Last month, von der Leyen hinted at her willingness to collaborate with the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR), one of two far-right groups in the parliament.

Important members of the ECR, which generally opposes further EU integration and enlargement while taking a strict stance on immigration and environmental protection policies, include Poland’s Law and Justice party and the Brothers of Italy party of Giorgia Meloni.

When pressed to distance herself from the far-right during a debate among leading candidates in the Netherlands last month, von der Leyen stated that possible scenarios would depend on “the composition of the parliament and who is in which group.”

With the elections less than two weeks away, political alliances that could shape the future direction of EU policy are already undergoing shifts.

On Thursday, a right-wing group in the European Parliament expelled the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party due to a series of scandals involving its leading candidate, including remarks seen as downplaying Nazi crimes in World War II and the arrest of one of his assistants on suspicion of spying for China.

On Friday, one of its nine European lawmakers, Sylvia Limmer, left the AfD, citing the authoritarian tendencies of its leadership.

Scholz, whose party trails both the AfD and center-right opponents in opinion polls, attributed the rise of the far-right to uncertainties caused by rapid economic change, new technologies, and climate change.

He asserted that by embracing a progressive and inclusive agenda, developed countries could counter this political trend.

“Two things are essential: firstly, confidence that the future will be positive, for our countries too, that we are at the forefront; and secondly, confidence that this is not just for a privileged few in our countries, but for the vast majority of the population,” he said.