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November 14, 2019

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German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany on February 15, 2019. Von der Leyen has been nominated to become the next head of the European Commission. Photo by Andreas Gebert/Reuters

German minister nominated to become first woman in top European Union post

BRUSSELS (AP) — After three days of arduous negotiations, European Union leaders broke a deadlock Tuesday and nominated German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to become the new president of the bloc’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, and take over from Jean-Claude Juncker for the next five years.

European Council President Donald Tusk said in a series of tweets that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel would take over from him in the fall.

Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde was proposed as president of the European Central Bank, while Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell was nominated to become EU foreign policy chief, meaning he would be charged with supervising the Iran nuclear deal, among other duties.

Only Michel can take up his post in November without other formalities. The others, notably von der Leyen, must be endorsed by the European Parliament. The assembly sits in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday to elect its own new president.

Several lawmakers have already objected to the leaders’ package of nominations, and it remains to be seen whether the parliament will flex new found muscles following the massive turnout for EU-wide elections in May. Party leaders have said the vote has brought the assembly — the EU’s only elected institution — even more democratic legitimacy.

“It won’t be easy in parliament,” said Juncker, who steps down on Oct. 31 as head of the commission, which proposes and enforces EU laws. Von der Leyen would be the first woman in that job.

So would Lagarde — currently chair of the International Monetary Fund — and she would serve for up to eight years if her nomination is endorsed.

The nominations came after one of the longest summits in recent years, outstripping even all-night negotiations during the Greek debt crisis.

Already plagued by crises like Brexit and deep divisions among nations over how best to manage migration, the leaders had been keen to show that they could take quick decisions and that the European project remains important to its citizens.

But the leaders struggled to establish a delicate balance between population size and geography — an even mix of countries from the north and south, east and west, and ensure that at least two women were nominated.

AP Writers Mike Corder in Brussels, and Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans, in Berlin contributed to this report.

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