Von der Leyen is the favorite for a second term at the head of the EC

When EU ambassadors met for lunch with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, in recent days, they had one pressing question: Does she plan to run for another term?
According to two diplomats directly familiar with the matter, several national envoys "politely" asked the head of the EU executive about her plans during a lunch organized by the Commission, Politico reported.
After the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, announced his intention to stand as a member of the European Parliament, the pressure on von der Leyen to clarify her intentions is mounting. Despite hinting at what she might do during her second term, the former German defense minister is reluctant to comment on the topic for now.
"Not a single muscle moved on her face," said one of the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the pressing questions - especially given the interest within her party, the conservative European People's Party (EPP), to make a formal declaration.
The decision to announce a candidacy for re-election is explosive for von der Leyen. As soon as he announces his candidacy, questions will arise as to whether he is acting as President of the Commission or as a candidate. Already, her more political actions - such as attending the conference of the liberal group Renew Europe in France in September - are being scrutinized for signs that she intends to run.
The EPP has given prospective candidates until February 21 to declare their intentions ahead of the party's congress, which will be held in Bucharest on March 6-9, at which members will make their choice.
EPP chairman Manfred Weber said von der Leyen would be the best choice for the party's lead candidate.
Von der Leyen is under no legal obligation to announce that he plans to run as the EPP's front-runner for the next Commission president. Under a procedure agreed by EU political parties - but not by heads of state or government - the leading candidate of the political group that won the largest share of the vote in the European Parliament elections should be the default choice for the next head of the executive EU power.
Von der Leyden, who was nominated by EU leaders and confirmed by the European Parliament without running in the 2019 general election, has faced criticism that she lacks "democratic legitimacy".
"I think we suffer from a sense of a democratic deficit," said Cristiano Sebastiani, head of the Renouveau et Democratie union, which represents Commission staff.
Apart from ambassadors and party officials, the questions also come from the structures of the Commission itself: "The whole institution is asking itself this question, but no one knows the truth", added Sebastiani, referring to von der Leyen's plans to run for re-election.
If she decides to run, she will not have to step down as Commission president or go on leave, under internal rules last updated in 2018 to allow commissioners to keep their jobs while leading campaign for EU post.
Von der Leyen, like other commissioners seeking the post, will be under intense scrutiny over whether she acts as Commission president or as a candidate from the day she announced she wants to be re-elected. Commission rules state that campaign activities must be clearly separated from official business and that EU executive resources cannot be used for election campaigns. /BGNES