European Union picks women for top jobs after marathon negotiations

EU leaders back German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen as the President of the European Commission and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as the president of European Central Bank

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (social media)
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (social media)


Three days of negotiations in Brussels among the EU leaders have culminated in the nomination of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen to serve as the President of the European Commission and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde for the presidency of the European Central Bank (ECB).

The governments of the European Union member-states reached the decision to give two of the top four EU jobs to women after a marathon set of talks that exposed the continent's simmering divisions.

Von Der Leyen's role must be confirmed by a vote in the European Parliament. If elected, both Von der Leyen, 60, and Lagarde, 63, would be the first women to hold the positions of Commission President and bloc's central bank chief, respectively.

Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk called the appointments "a perfect gender balance".

Belgian liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel was nominated to replace Tusk, while Spain's acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, 72, was proposed for the post of foreign policy chief, the BBC reported.

Borrell's nomination also needs to be confirmed by the European Parliament. In the case of Lagarde, the Parliament has only a consultative role.

The European Council, comprised EU heads of government, has sole authority to name its President, so Michel, 43, faces no hurdles to becoming the successor to Donald Tusk of Poland.

With a failure to agree on who should preside over the European Parliament, member-states decided to make Bulgarian social democrat Sergei Stanichev Speaker for the first half of the legislature, to be followed by German conservative Manfred Weber in the second, Efe news reported.

The Commission President and foreign policy coordinator each serve for five years, while the Council Presidency comes with a renewable 2 1/2-year term.

Lagarde, if confirmed, will lead the ECB for eight years.

Von der Leyen will succeed Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, Michel is to take the place of Tusk, Borrell will step into the shoes of Italian politician Federica Mogherini and Lagarde will take baton at the ECB from Mario Draghi of Italy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a post-meeting press conference that Dutch former Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans will remain as first Vice President of the European Commission, while Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager of Sweden is to bear the initial title of second Vice President.

The Chancellor revealed that Germany had abstained in the vote on Von der Leyen because the Social Democrat component of the coalition government in Berlin opposed the nomination of the conservative.

Von der Leyen is loyal to Merkel, a true Christian Democrat and a conservative Europhile.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the nominations were "the fruit of a deep Franco-German entente".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the nomination of two women for key jobs sent a powerful message that the EU was leading the way towards gender equality.

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