Von der Leyen elected EU Commission head after MEPs vote

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Elected European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reacts after the voteImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Ursula von der Leyen reacts after the vote on Tuesday evening

Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen has been narrowly elected president of the EU Commission following a secret ballot among MEPs.

The centre-right defence minister will replace Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 1 November.

She secured the backing of more than half of the members of the European parliament on Tuesday evening.

The Commission drafts EU laws, enforces EU rules and has the power to impose fines on member states if necessary.

“It is a big responsibility and my work starts now,” Mrs von der Leyen said in a speech immediately after the vote. “Let us work together constructively.”

She was confirmed by a margin of 383 votes to 327. She needed 374 MEPs to back her out of 747 lawmakers in total.

In all, 751 were elected in May, but four MEPs were absent for the vote.

Born in Brussels, Mrs von der Leyen has seven children and trained as a gynaecologist before entering politics. She is the first woman to be elected president of the European Commission.

She has promised to push for the EU to play a bigger role in social welfare, to tackle poverty, and has stressed that she would stand up for women’s rights.

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Media captionUrsula von der Leyen said she wanted Europe to be the first “climate-neutral” continent

In a speech in the European parliament earlier on Tuesday, Mrs von der Leyen made some other significant pledges:

  • She would push to give the European Parliament “the right of initiative” – meaning the Commission would have to legislate on MEPs’ resolutions; currently only the Commission can draft laws
  • On irregular migration to the EU, she said she would boost the EU’s border force Frontex to 10,000 staff by 2024, but said “we need to preserve the right to asylum through humanitarian corridors”
  • She offered an EU “reinsurance scheme” to bolster national insurance schemes for the unemployed.

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