Ursula von der Leyen, Set to Lead the EU Commission, Once Called Donald Trump 'Immature'

If U.S. President Donald Trump hoped his dealings with the European Union (EU) will become easier when the president of its Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, steps down, then there's bad news.

Juncker's likely successor is Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's defense minister, who the leaders of EU member states just nominated as his replacement. The European Parliament must now vote to ratify the nomination.

Von der Leyen, 60, has been a stalwart in the governments of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with who Trump has had a difficult relationship. Merkel endorsed von der Leyen for EU Commission president, though for domestic political reasons abstained in the actual vote.

If approved, von der Leyen will become the first woman to lead the Commission, which is the technocratic arm of the EU, proposing laws under the guidance of the Council—a body made up of the members' heads of state—and carrying out administrative and ministerial functions.

It is the Commission with which the Trump administration is negotiating in its ongoing trade dispute with the EU. When in 2018 President Trump attempted to link the NATO defense spending commitment with EU trade, von der Leyen was withering in her response.

"I think this is an immature discussion," she told Bloomberg, saying that tariffs harm economic growth, which in turn means less tax income for national governments, and so it is harder to spend more money on defense.

"Therefore I think we should turn the discussion into a mature discussion which disentangles both topics. They are not related to each other," von der Leyen said.

The previous year, Trump accused Germany of owing "vast sums of money" to NATO because it, along with several other members of the alliance, was not meeting a defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP.

Von der Leyen was quick to respond, saying the president needed to have a "modern security concept," Reuters reported.

"There is no debt account at NATO," von der Leyen said in a statement, suggesting that defense spending went beyond just NATO. "Defense spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism."

After Trump's infamous Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, von der Leyen accused the U.S. leader in an interview with Der Spiegel of having "no recognizable strategy" in his approach to Russia.

"The problem with Helsinki is that nobody knows what was discussed or even agreed," she said, The Local Germany reported.

Moreover, in the interview, von der Leyen accused Trump of sowing "maximum disruption" among NATO through "empty public hostility, hard negotiations, and sometimes flattery."

And she suggested Trump was intimidated by Merkel because she is a powerful woman.

"A woman like Angela Merkel, a globally admired head of government with many years of experience has probably not featured in his world view before," von der Leyen told Der Spiegel. "At the beginning, he didn't even want to shake her hand. Now he is much more respectful."

Ursula von der Leyen EU Commission Trump
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, attends the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting on July 3, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Von der Leyen is nominated to become president of the E.U. Commission. Omer Messinger/Getty Images
Ursula von der Leyen, Set to Lead the EU Commission, Once Called Donald Trump 'Immature' | Politics