Who is Ursula von der Leyen? Germany's former defence minister is set to take Europe's top job

Business Insider US
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 17: German Chancellor Angel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and outgoing Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attend the appointment ceremony of new Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at Schloss Bellevue on July 17, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Von der Leyen is relinquishing her post following her election yesterday by the European Parliament by a slim margin as new president of the European Commission. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Age: 60

Family: Her father was one the first European civil servants from the establishment of the European Commission. Her husband Heiko von der Leyen is a professor of medicine and CEO of a medical engineering company. They have seven children.

Where is she from? Von der Leyen was born in Brussels where she lived until she was 13 before moving to the Hannover region.

Previous Jobs and education: In 1980 von de Leyen studied Medicine at the Hannover medical school, graduating in 1987 and becoming a doctor in 1991. Since 2003 von der Leyen has worked in German politics, as part of the Christian Democratic Union. In 2013 she was appointed as Germany's first female minister of defence.

Von der Leyen on Tuesday was narrowly elected to take Europe's top job as the first female head of the European Commission. As a close ally of Angela Merkel, eyebrows were initially raised over her nomination to take the role, with worries over Germany's control of the union.

Her nomination was won with just nine votes, and relied upon Europe's right leaning parties to get her through. However now the Belgian-born politician will become the first female to take Europe's top job.

"The task ahead of us humbles me. It is a big responsibility and my work starts now," von der Leyen said after the vote, according to The Financial Times.

Von der Leyen has been working in German politics for the last three decades. First as a State Minister from 2003 to 2005 serving in the parliament in lower Saxony, then she became part of Merkel's cabinet.

As family minister she was known as the "closet feminist," working to open more nurseries. She was nicknamed "Zensursula" due to her desire to shield the German youth from the darker parts of the internet, the Guardian reported.

After serving for four years as Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs. In 2013 she took up her most recent role as German defence minister. There she was noted for having a star presence within the NATO community, reforming the German armed forces, and expanding the number of soldiers as well as spending.

Now she as president-elect, von Der Leyen will spend the next few months choosing her 27 commissioners, and is due to take over from Jean Claude Junker on November 1, the day after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.

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