Von der Leyen becomes first female EU executive chief with narrow win

Wednesday, 2019-07-17 14:09:19
 Font Size:     |        Print

Elected European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reacts during a news conference after the vote on her election at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, July 16, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
 Font Size:     |  

Germany's Ursula von der Leyen was elected to be the next president of the European Commission on Tuesday (July 16) with a slim majority.

She made history as the first female chief executive of the European Union. The slim majority also helped avert a political crisis for the world's largest trading bloc.

Of the 733 votes casted by members of the European Parliament, she won 383 votes, only 9 votes more than the necessary 374-vote majority. Had her nomination - without objection from any of the 28 EU member state governments - been shot down, Brussels would be deep in uncharted political waters.

Instead, the mother-of-seven and Germany's first female defense minister - who said ahead the vote she would resign her office - thanked lawmakers with a smile and said "The task ahead of us humbles me. It's a big responsibility and my work starts now."

Her election was preceded by good news on Tuesday as a barrage of politicians, including senior EU lawmakers, threw their support behind her in Strasbourg. But the vote in the seat of the EU legislature was a secret ballot, potentially enabling lawmakers to break from official lines.

Von der Leyen was born and grew up in Brussels, Belgium, where her father once served as a senior officer in the EU. She will, upon taking office in November, oversee the EU's executive branch of around 32,000 staff in her birth place and represent the 500-million strong economy in the world.

A trained gynaecologist, she was fluent in English, French and German and she made a point of that by speaking the three languages in one speech on Tuesday morning to EU lawmakers, in a last bid to win their support.