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New chief at the European Commission - Von der Leyen takes charge

Of German nationality, but born and raised in Brussels, Ursula von der Leyen is the first female President of the European Commission, and belongs to the EPP’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). She has a background in economics and physics and is a qualified medical Doctor, and between 2005-2019 she served as a Minister for Family Affairs and Youth, of Labour and Social Affairs and finally of Defence. She was the longest-serving official in Merkel’s government, and the first woman to take up the role at the Defense Ministry.

She has not emerged unscathed from this extended period at the heart of the German government. She has been accused of doctoring her PhD themis to accusations that she mishandled procurement at the Defence Ministry.

Having been nominated by the EU heads of state and government to become Commission President, Von der Leyen had to go on a charm offensive to win over MEPs, many of which were uneasy and disappointed that one of the Spitzenkandidaten would not become President. In the subsequent negotiations with the Parliamentary Groups to secure their support for her candidacy, Von der Leyen developed a six political priorities to focus, in the hope of receiving the backing of the party groups:

Von der Leyen built her agenda for Europe around 6 headline ambitions:

1. A European Green Deal

2. An economy that works for people

3. A Europe fit for the digital age

  • Achieve technological sovereignty in some critical technology areas

  • key technologies need to be kept in Europe

  • AI legislation in the first 100 days in office, for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence

  • Digital Services Act will upgrade our liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products

4. Protecting our European way of life (later changed into promoting)

5. A stronger Europe in the world

6. A new push for European democracy


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