Germany’s Von der Leyen emerges as top candidate for head of European Commission

NEWS 02.07.2019 19:41
Source: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is set to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the new leader of the European Commission, leaders of EU countries agreed on Tuesday after three days of gruelling negotiations between the bloc's main political groups.

Von der Leyen (60) is a member of Germany’s Christian Democrats, the party formerly led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and aligned with the European People’s Party (EPP). Since appointed defence minister in late 2013 in Merkel’s cabinet, her tenure has been marked by a series of controversies over the awarding of defence contracts, the questionable readiness of the German armed forces, and the tackling right-wing extremism in the armed forces.

Born in Belgium, she fluently speaks French and English in addition to her native German. A trained gynaecologist, and a mother of seven, she entered politics in her early 40s after a career in medicine, and went on to hold several government posts since the early 2000s. She will be the first woman at the helm of the European Commission.

Other top appointments agreed on Tuesday include Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel, aligned with the pan-European liberal ALDE party, who will replace former Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, as the head the European Council, and the current head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, who will take over as head of the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank from Italian economist Mario Draghi.

Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, will be the EU’s next foreign policy chief, replacing Federica Mogherini, the outgoing Prtesident of the European Council, Donald Tusk, announced on Tuesday afternoon.

The nominations have yet to be formally confirmed by the European Parliament in mid-July, which itself had met for the first time on Tuesday in Strasbourg in its new composition following European elections in May.

Von der Leyen is set to take office after Juncker’s term expires in October, Lagarde will take the helm at the European Central Bank after Draghi’s eight-year term ends in November, and Michel is due to replace Tusk in December.