President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen arrives for a EU leaders Summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on October 26, 2023. EU leaders will debate starting October 26, 2023, in a two day summit in Brussels, for a call for humanitarian "pauses" in Israel's war with Hamas, as the bloc grapples with another conflict on its fringes alongside Russia's invasion of Ukraine. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

A petition demanding the immediate resignation of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has gathered momentum, crossing 53,000 signatures. Initiated by MERA25 Germany, part of the pan-European movement DiEM25, the petition criticizes von der Leyen for her handling of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza, which they argue represents a disregard for the EU's legal framework and basic moral standards.

Context of the Controversy

Von der Leyen's support for Israel’s military actions against Gaza, including the restriction of essentials like water, food, and electricity to civilians and the broader bombing campaigns, is seen as a transgression of international law and her EU mandate. Her actions have not only drawn widespread condemnation from diplomats and EU officials  and staff, but have also prompted serious allegations of contributing to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Also Von de Leyen has been accused of blatant hypocrisy as just a year ago, she publicly called the same actions, that is cutting off water, electricity, fuel by Russian forces a war crime and terrorism, but not only accepting all of these against Palestinians by Israeli forces as legitimate ”right to defence, but also rushing to Isreal to cheer the occupying army and never saying a word about the rights of Palestinians to freedom and dignity.

Yanis Varoufakis's Stand

DiEM25 co-founder Yanis Varoufakis has been vocal in his criticism, stating, "Mrs. von der Leyen, incompetence we can tolerate. But flying to a war zone to cheerlead, on behalf of Europeans, war crimes and crimes against humanity: that we shall not tolerate. You are a disgrace and a liability. It is time for you to resign."

Core Issues Highlighted by the Petition

The petition underscores several key issues:

  1. Unilateral Action Without Mandate: Von der Leyen is accused of endorsing severe measures against Gaza's civilian population without a mandate from EU member states.
  2. Violation of International Law: The petition points to the disregard of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment.
  3. Moral Authority Undermined: The petition argues that von der Leyen's stance is inconsistent with her previous positions on similar actions by other countries, undermining the EU’s moral authority.
  4. Circumvention of EU Institutional Processes: Von der Leyen’s approach is seen as bypassing the European Council and ignoring the EU's separation of powers, particularly concerning foreign policy decisions.

Call for Action

The signatories demand von der Leyen’s immediate resignation, stating that if she refuses, the German government should retract her as commissioner. They call upon EU citizens and institutions to uphold and restore the EU's moral authority on the international stage, emphasising that international law must be applied universally.

This petition reflects deep divisions and concerns over the EU's foreign policy and ethical stances, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The focus now turns to how the European Commission, its member states, and the broader international community will respond to this growing call for accountability and adherence to international law and moral integrity. The unfolding situation offers a critical moment for reflection on the principles and values guiding the European Union's role on the global stage.