Von der Leyen wins liberal support for European Union executive top job

The warning comes after German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, the European Council's preferred figure to lead the most powerful institution in Brussels, delivered a 30-minute speech in the Strasbourg chamber, where she called for half of all EU Commissioners to be women, and pledged to put forward a "green new deal for Europe" which would aim to "reduce Carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 by 50, if not 55 per cent".

When he heard the news that the German Defence Minister had been elected, he embarked on a ferocious tirade against what he saw as a "fanatical" leader: "She's won it by nine votes... unbelievable".

Meanwhile, Martin Selmayr, the European Commission's secretary general, whose sudden promotion a year ago angered MEPs and earned a rebuke from the European ombudsman, will step down from his post next week, a spokeswoman for the EU executive said on Tuesday.

The 60-year-old conservative will replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission if she secures a majority in the Strasbourg assembly.

In her own address, MEP Marina Kaljurand (SDE/S&D) acknowledged von der Leyen's promise to commit to fighting for human rights, equality and the building of an undivided Europe. If you can spare even a few dollars each month, it would make a huge difference to us.

As family affairs minister, she fought to overhaul parental leave policy to encourage fathers to also take time to care for their children.

"Lady Justice is blind - she will defend the rule of law wherever it is attacked", Von der Leyen had told the parliament.

Just before the vote, it was announced that Pis, the Eurosceptic ruling party in Poland, would vote for von der Leyen. Their co-chairman Ska Keller said there had not been enough "green content" to her proposed green deal.

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"We expect that the issues you spoke about today in front of the plenary chamber will also be examined in depth and followed up by the members of your college during the hearings in the competent Parliament committees".

A fluent English and French speaker, she has however built a solid network of allies across Europe, crucially including French President Emmanuel Macron, and launched a strong charm offensive in recent days.

Von der Leyen argued for greater climate action, saying: "I want Europe to become the first climate neutral continent in the world by 2050".

Ursula von der Leyen is a German politician who has served as Germany's Minister of Defence since 2013. Nationalists, populists and some in her centre-right European People's Party (EPP), on the other hand, thought she had made too many concessions to the progressives.

Q: What will a Von der Leyen presidency mean for Ireland?

She told MEPs this morning that her view on Brexit is that it was a "serious decision" of the British people and "we regret it, but we respect it". But she has also mentioned that she will not be accepting any amendments to the current withdrawal agreement as she believes it is the "best and only possible deal for an orderly withdrawal", which could put further downward pressure on GBP if she is elected on Tuesday evening as it increases the risks of a no deal Brexit.

"However, I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason".

For that, the commission president will need a reliable majority in Strasbourg, but May's elections threw up a more fragmented European Union parliament than ever.

  • Sonia Alvarado