Germany's Ursula von der Leyen nominated to lead EU Commission

Wednesday July 3 2019

Ursula von der Leyen

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on February 27, 2019. Ms Leyen has been nominated to head the EU Commission. 

BBC
By BBC
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EU leaders have put forward their nominations for the bloc's top jobs, with a woman for the first time proposed as European Commission chief.

The surprise choice of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen to replace Jean-Claude Juncker came after the main front-runners were rejected.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has been nominated as the first woman to head the European Central Bank (ECB)

The announcement follows days of difficult negotiations.

TOP JOBS

In all, EU leaders were tasked with nominating five people for the top jobs.

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Belgian liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel is nominated to replace European Council President Donald Tusk while Spain's Josep Borrell is proposed as foreign policy chief.

The fifth key role — president of the European Parliament — is to be chosen on Wednesday.

Possible candidates include German centre-right MEP Manfred Weber and Bulgarian socialist Sergei Stanishev.

Most of the roles must be ratified by parliament.

REACTIONS 

"We have agreed the whole package before the first session of the European Parliament," said Mr Tusk.

He said Germany had abstained on Mrs von der Leyen's nomination over coalition issues but pointed out that Chancellor Angela Merkel herself had backed her.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the nominations were "the fruit of a deep Franco-German entente".

"Von der Leyen is a very good candidate and a very good choice to head the European Commission," he told reporters, adding that Ms Lagarde's "capacities and competences... totally qualified her" for the ECB.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the nomination of two women for key jobs sent a powerful message that the EU was leading the way towards gender equality.

However, there were concerns that the European Parliament's own contest for the main job — the "Spitzenkandidaten" (lead candidate) process — had been cast aside.

Neither the winner of that process, Manfred Weber of Germany, nor other frontrunners were selected by EU leaders.

"You have to compromise in politics," Mr Varadkar insisted, adding that the centre-right Mr Weber would most likely be given the shared presidency of the European Parliament along with a Socialist figure.

There was also surprise that four of the main jobs had gone to Western Europeans, with no nominations from Eastern Europe.

However, the eastern states are thought to have been strongly behind Mrs von der Leyen's nomination, having rejected a compromise involving Dutch Labour leader Frans Timmermans the night before. 

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