New EU chief makes first trip to Brussels

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The EU’s new president-elect Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday made her first trip to Brussels since being nominated, as senior officials sought to shore up support for her appointment in the European Parliament.

Current German defense minister von der Leyen met Jean-Claude Juncker, the man she is to replace as European Commission president, for talks a day after pledging to present her “vision for the next five years for Europe” within a fortnight.


She must win the approval of the highly fragmented European Parliament, where there have been grumblings about the deal to appoint her, which was cooked up by EU national leaders over three days of tortuous summit wrangling.

Juncker and von der Leyen - the first woman to be named to the head of the EU’s executive arm - embraced warmly for the cameras as they met at commission headquarters in Brussels, but neither made any comment.

Juncker, whose five-year term has been marked by Brexit and the migrant crisis - two of the biggest upheavals ever to hit the EU - tweeted later that he was “delighted” to receive von der Leyen.

“A true European, we are on the same page when it comes to speaking up for EU interests,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Donald Tusk the president of the European Council of member states, appeared before MEPs at the parliament in Strasbourg to urge them to unite and support von der Leyen.

“We must respect each other and cooperate with each other, because only then can we build trust and change Europe for the better,” Tusk told the parliament, sitting this week in Strasbourg, France.

Tusk - who led the summit talks that eventually installed von der Leyen - will meet the 60-year-old, who has served in the German cabinet since 2005, for separate talks on Thursday afternoon.

Von der Leyen wasted no time in her campaign to court MEPs, travelling to Strasbourg on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after winning the leaders’ nod, for talks with her center-right European People’s Party (EPP) bloc.

May’s European election left the EPP - long the dominant force in EU politics - weakened, and while it remains the biggest single bloc in parliament, von der Leyen will need the backing of other groups as well, such as the socialists and the liberals.

After a major electoral breakthrough by environmental parties, Tusk also called for the Greens bloc to be fully involved in the nomination process.

“I am fully confident that cooperation with the Greens and their presence in the EU decision-making bodies will benefit not only the governing coalition, but Europe as a whole,” Tusk said.

The parliament vote on von der Leyen is scheduled for mid-July, and she would take office on November 1 - the day after Britain is currently due to leave the bloc.

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