German conservative Ursula von der Leyen is the new President of the European Commission and the first woman ever on this post.
Germany’s defense minister was confirmed as the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker by a majority of only 9 votes at th eEuropean Parliament on Tuesday evening after a much-criticised process and weeks of political uncertainty.
Her nomination as a compromise candidate by EU leaders as part of horse-trading has angered some politicians who had put forward their own candidates.
She needed 374 to votes to win Tuesday’s confirmation, and in the end won 383 — well short of the 420 achieved by her predecessor, notes, euronews.
Before the voting and in a bid to win MEPs’ support, she set out her priorities for the next five years, should she be confirmed in the job.
On Brexit: She regretted but respected the referendum vote and is open to extending the UK’s departure date beyond October 31.
On the environment: She promised a “green deal” for the EU in her first 100 days in office and said she wanted Europe to be first the carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
On fiscal matters: She had earlier pledged A more growth-oriented fiscal policy and taxing big tech companies
On gender equality: She made a point of emphasising she could become the EC’s first female leader and committed to having an equal number of men and women serving her.
Who is Ursula von der Leyen?
The 60-year-old Ursula von der Leyen has served as Minister of Defence of Germany since 2013. A member of the German right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU), she is the first woman in German history to hold the office of defense minister, and the first woman to become President of the European Commission.
She was born and raised in Brussels, where her father Ernst Albrecht was one of the first European civil servants from 1958, and was brought up bilingual in German and French; she is of German and American descent. She moved to Hanover in 1971, when her father entered politics to become Prime Minister of the state of Lower Saxony in 1976. As an economics student in London in the late 1970s, she lived under the name Rose Ladson.
After graduating as a physician from the Hanover Medical School in 1987, she specialized in women’s health.
In 1986 she married fellow physician Heiko von der Leyen of the noble von der Leyen family of silk merchants.
She is a mother of seven children and she was a housewife during parts of the 1990s.
In the late 1990s she became involved in local politics in the Hanover region and she served as a cabinet minister in the state government of Lower Saxony from 2003 to 2005. In 2005 she joined the federal cabinet, first as Minister of Family Affairs and Youth from 2005 to 2009, then as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from 2009 to 2013, before succeeding Thomas de Maizière as Minister of Defence in 2013.
She is the only minister to have served continuously in Angela Merkel’s cabinet since she took office.
She has previously been regarded as a main contender to succeed Merkel as Chancellor and as the favourite to become Secretary-General of NATO.
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