POLITICS
02/07/2019 19:42 BST | Updated 02/07/2019 19:44 BST

First Woman Set To Lead European Commission As Ursula Von Der Leyen Backed For Top Job

The German defence minister will replace Jean-Claude Juncker.

SIPA USA/PA Images
Ursula von der Leyen

The European Commission looks set to have its first female president after EU leaders nominated German minister Ursula von der Leyen for the job.

European Council president Donald Tusk announced the news of Jean-Claude Juncker’s replacement in a series of tweets as three days of wrangling over jobs drew to a close on Tuesday.

Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde has also been nominated as the head of the European Central Bank, while liberal Belgian prime minister Charles Michel is set to be the head of the European Council and Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell as EU foreign policy chief.

The Commission president is in charge of the EU’s day-to-day affairs and proposes legislation, while the Council president organises summits of government leaders and brokers compromises.

Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are both hopeful that the EU will be willing to reopen the withdrawal agreement - something that has been repeatedly ruled out by the current power-holders. 

The official start of the summit was delayed by more than four hours on Tuesday as Tusk led discussions in groups aimed at finding a compromise over who should secure the posts.

The challenge was to name a group of new leaders of the EU institutions that respect the bloc’s political affiliations, geography - a balance of countries from the north and south, east and west - population size and to have at least two women nominated.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was important that the European Union finally achieved broad unity in nominating its future leaders.

Merkel said that “everyone had to move and did move”.

She told reporters: “It is important that we were able to decide with great unity today, and that it is important because it’s about our future ability to work.”

She added that in view of the very different views going into the summit, “it is of great value that we succeeded in this”.

The package put together sees Merkel’s defence minister, von der Leyen, becoming president of the Commission. Merkel said: “For me it is also a good sign that a woman will have this office for the first time.”

She noted that, if approved, von der Leyen would also be the first German head of the European executive for 52 years.

International Monetary Fund chief Lagarde said she was giving up her IMF duties temporarily after being nominated for the presidency of the European Central Bank.

Lagarde, currently the IMF’s managing director, said in a tweet that she was honoured by the nomination.

She said: “I have decided to temporarily relinquish my responsibilities” as the head of the IMF during the EU’s selection period.