German Defense Minister Is The Surprise Pick To Run The EU Commission

Ursula von der Leyen could become the European Commission's first-ever female president — if her nomination makes it past the European Parliament.
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jul 03, 2019

Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is poised to become the first woman elected as the European Commission's president.

Von der Leyen was tapped for the role during a summit of EU heads of state; her nomination still has to make it through the European Parliament. She emerged as a surprise consensus pick among EU leaders after Parliament's preferred candidates failed to win enough support.

Von der Leyen is a strong proponent of a more integrated Europe, but her time as the head of Germany's infamously troubled defense sector hasn't won her much support back home. She's faced scrutiny over how her department broke several profitable consultancy contracts. And a military review released by a German lawmaker this year included the line: "Many soldiers tell me: 'We are micro-managing ourselves to death.'"

If approved, Von der Leyen will take over for current Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker when he retires on October 31. She'll likely have to immediately grapple with Britain's pending exit from the bloc, which is supposed to take place on that same date.

EU heads of state also tapped the current head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine LaGarde, to run the European Central Bank. Belgium's interim Prime Minister, Charles Michel, would take over for Donald Tusk as the new EU Council President, while Spain's Foreign Minister, Joseph Borrell Fontelles, would become the bloc's new foreign representative.

But only Michel's job is guaranteed; the rest of the nominees still have to win a simple majority vote in the European Parliament.