German defense chief Ursula von der Leyen elected EC head

By Nicholas Sakelaris
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was elected head of the European Commission on Tuesday. File Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI/Pool | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/ab7758bbba1bcb7dc9ce639bcef252e7/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was elected head of the European Commission on Tuesday. File Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI/Pool | License Photo

July 2 (UPI) -- The European Union on Tuesday elected German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as the first female leader of the European Commission -- and she could also become the first female president of the alliance, as well.

Von der Leyen was chosen unanimously by EU leaders, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel abstained from voting. If confirmed, von der Leyen would take over the body as Britain prepares its departure.


Other nominations that are part of the package include Charles Michel for European Council president, Christine Lagarde for European Central Bank president, and Josep Borrell Fontelles for High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Iratxe Garcia, who leads the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, called the nominations "unacceptable" and "deeply disappointing."

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The European Union met for 20 hours in Belgium to decide the leaders Monday before a stalemate suspended the session. A compromise failed that would have appointed Dutch Labor leader Frans Timmermans to head the commission and Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva becoming president of the European Council.

There was a show of defiance from British Conservatives as the session reconvened Tuesday. Several Brexit party members turned their backs on the European Parliament during the European anthem, a symbolic protest for Britons who want to leave the EU. The song was performed live by a quartet of saxophones and an opera singer.


European Parliament President Antonio Tajani condemned the show of opposition.

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"[It] is a question of respect; it doesn't mean that you necessarily share the views of the European Union," Tajani said. "If you listen to the anthem of another country you rise to your feet."

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are top contenders to lead the party and take over as prime minister this month. Britain is set to leave the EU this fall.

"We have two contenders telling us whatever happens, come hell or high water we are leaving on the 31 October," said Brexit Party member Nigel Farage, who called the protest a show of "cheerful defiance."

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"I don't believe a word they say but I will give them this warning: if they don't deliver Brexit on that date they are toast and we will then see a turquoise takeover."

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