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Von der Leyen: The Wolf Warrior

CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP

Staff writer Mehmet Temur tells the tale of EU figurehead Ursula von der Leyen’s uneasiness with wolves.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, seems to be embroiled in an unexpected feud with the furry, four-legged residents of the European forests – wolves. In a saga that involves wolves, farmers, politicians, and even a pony, this tale unfolds in a way that might make even the Grimm Brothers raise an eyebrow.

The Trigger: A Pony’s Tragic Fate

The entire wolf drama began when von der Leyen’s beloved pony, Dolly, met a rather unfortunate end in Germany last year, due to a wolf attack. This heart breaking incident led the European Commission President to demand a review of the strict protection rules governing wolves throughout Europe.

Brussels Takes Action

Fast forward to today, and Brussels is stepping into what they call “a new phase” of addressing the return of wolves to European territories. Von der Leyen herself announced this, urging “local communities, scientists, and all interested parties” to provide data on the impact of wolves. But what does this mean in practical terms?

The Wolf’s Status Hangs in the Balance

The European Commission is now contemplating a change in the protection status of wolves. This potential shift could allow more flexible approaches to dealing with these creatures, especially when they pose a threat to humans or livestock. While the current rules strictly prohibit capturing and killing of most wolves, there might be room for a few exceptions.

Farmers and Hunters Cheer, Environmentalists Jeer

This wolf debate has pitted two powerful forces against each other – the farming and hunting associations versus the environmentalists. Farmers and hunters have long argued that they are under intense pressure to protect their livestock from wolf attacks. They’re demanding a change in the rules to allow them to take more drastic measures against the wolves.

Environmental groups, on the other hand, argue that wolves remain a threatened species. They contend that reducing their protection status could jeopardize their long-term recovery. So, it’s essentially a battle between safeguarding farmers’ interests and preserving biodiversity.

A Political Manoeuvre?

But there’s more to this wolf saga. Ursula von der Leyen, a member of the right-wing European People’s Party (EPP), is rumoured to be considering a run for a second term in office, and the European elections approaching. Before this incident, her ties with the EPP had been strained due to disagreements over the EU Green Deal. However, her sudden passion for wolf-related policy matters might just win her some points with her party, which has been advocating for a review of wolf protection rules.

This wolf debate also coincides with a broader political strategy by the EPP to court rural voters. The EPP, the largest group in the European Parliament, sees weakening wolf protection as a way to support farmers worried about their livestock. For EPP leader Manfred Weber, it’s about finding “a common solution in the interest of protection of animals but also in the protection of people.”

What Lies Ahead?

As this unexpected drama unfolds, wolves continue to roam the European forests, both feared and admired. The European Commission’s decision on their protection status will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for Europe’s ecosystem, its farmers, and the future of Ursula von der Leyen’s political career.

So, as the wolf hunt rages on, it seems that the wolves of Europe are having their moment in the spotlight. Whether they will emerge as the heroes or villains of this tale remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure – their howls are echoing across the continent, and their future is more uncertain than ever before.

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