European Commission Has Its First Female President

Ursula von der Leyen confirmed on 383-327 vote
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 16, 2019 2:22 PM CDT
European Commission Has Its First Female President
Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EU executive, smiles during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday July 16, 2019.   (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Ursula von der Leyen was confirmed as the European Commission president Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold one of the most prestigious positions in the European Union and one of the most prominent faces from the bloc on the world stage. The European Parliament voted 383-327 with 22 abstentions to approve von der Leyen's nomination, the AP reports. The confirmation required an absolute majority of 374 votes and the outgoing German defense minister scraped through with barely nine votes to spare in a cliffhanger vote. "A majority is a majority in politics," she said when questioned about her narrow escape. She was put forward as a last-minute candidate by EU leaders as part over an overall appointments package, sidestepping parliamentary wishes. Many legislators felt cold-shouldered and said they would oppose her out of principle, not over personal considerations. "There was a great deal of resentment," she said.

Von der Leyen insisted the challenges facing the EU—including climate, migration and internal division—were such that there was no time to look back. "My message to all of you is: Let us work together constructively," she said. Earlier in the day, Von der Leyen set out her political objectives on a greener, gender-equal Europe where the rule of law continues to hold sway. Her approval was a key part in the package of top jobs that EU leaders agreed upon early this month. Under the deal, the free-market liberal Renew Europe group got Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel as European Council president and the Socialists won the top parliament job. France's Christine Lagarde was put forward as head of the European Central Bank. Von der Leyen told lawmakers in Strasbourg that the gender element as embodied by herself and Lagarde will be an essential part of her job. "I will ensure full gender equality" in her team of 28 commissioners. "I want to see as many men as women around the college table," she said. (More on Von der Leyen and the vote here.)

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