During her annual State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Sept. 13, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a little slip of the tongue. Halfway through the speech, she wanted to say “Honorable Members of Parliament.” Instead, she said “Honorable Member States.” Everybody laughed. So did she, briefly.
Yes, it was funny. And, in a way, also revealing. The Strasbourg speech marked the beginning of the fifth and last year of von der Leyen’s mandate. It is generally assumed that she will seek a second mandate. In order to get it, she needs to not only please as many political families represented in Parliament as possible but also, crucially, secure the support of all 27 European Union heads of state or government. Ultimately, it is Europe’s national leaders—elected to run the “Honorable Member States”—who will decide her fate once the results of the European Parliament elections next June are known.