Home Politics Monitor Ursula von der Leyen: do you know the most powerful woman in Europe?
Politics Monitor

Ursula von der Leyen: do you know the most powerful woman in Europe?

She is the president of the European Commission for a few more months. Ursula von der Leyen, 65, declared on Monday February 20 her candidacy for a second term at the head of the European Union (EU) institution. During the next European elections which will take place from June 6 to 9 in each member country, all the leaders of the EU institutions will be renewed. Each must reflect the political balance resulting from the ballot.

The former German minister will have to face the push from the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which notably brings together Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and other European far-right parties. The German obtained the support of her party, the CDU (Christian Democrats), a member of the European People’s Party (EPP) which should, according to polls, come first in the elections.

The first female president of the European Commission
The first woman to head the European Commission has held this position since the previous European elections in 2019. The European Commission submits legislative proposals to the Council of the EU and the European Parliament and ensures the proper application of these texts. Ursula von der Leyen was appointed president of the institution by 9 votes by the European Parliament.

As a reminder, MEPs, elected by the inhabitants of the EU, appoint the President of the European Commission on a proposal from the European Council which must take into account the result of the European elections. In 2019, the Council, which brings together the heads of state and government of the Twenty-Seven, supported the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen.

A European father figure

For Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union is a family affair. She was born on October 8, 1958, the same year that the European Commission was created, to a European civil servant father, Ernst Albrecht, an illustrious figure in the first Commission of the European Economic Community (EEC) created in 1958. Ursula Albrecht was born in Brussels and grew up in Ixelles, a town bordering the capital. She attended the city’s European School. It was there that she learned to master French and English perfectly. The young girl who grew up in a bourgeois environment was passionate about horse riding.

In 1978, she flew to London where she studied at the London School of Economics under a pseudonym. The Red Army Faction, a far-right terrorist group very active at the time, threatened to kidnap the young girl: it must be said that in the meantime, her father had become vice-president of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union of Germany) and a very exposed figure. To protect herself, Ursula Albrecht becomes Rose Ladson in reference to her little girl’s nickname, Röschen, little rose in German.

The student ultimately chose to pursue medicine and resumed studies at the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University in Hanover. She became a doctor in 1991 and worked at the gynecological clinic of the Hannover Medical School. In 1986, she married the doctor Heiko von der Leyen. Both lived in the United States for a few years.

His beginnings in German politics

Joined the CDU, Ursula von der Leyen came to politics late in life. In 2003, at the age of 44, the mother of seven children was elected a deputy to the Landtag of Lower Saxony. The same year, the German was appointed Minister of Social Affairs, Women, Family and Health of Lower Saxony. In 2005, she joined Angela Merkel’s electoral campaign team and was then appointed Minister of Families, the Elderly, the Status of Women and Youth. In 2013, she obtained a strategic position: she became the first female Minister of Labor. It was only in 2019 that his career took on a European dimension when he was appointed president of the European Commission in place of Jean-Claude Junker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg.

European Green Deal and war in Ukraine

His mandate is marked by several trials, starting with Brexit then by the Covid-19 crisis which turned everything upside down. The Commission then develops a European vaccine strategy. The procedure which should allow the EU to be able to purchase vaccine doses for all member countries is delayed by controversies. Ursula von der Leyen is being sued by a Belgian lobbyist for refusing to reveal text messages exchanged with the CEO of Pfizer.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ursula von der Leyen showed EU support for kyiv and developed a strategy to end energy dependence on Moscow. The President of the Commission is also distinguished by the launch of a major European recovery plan of 750 billion euros financed for the first time by debt common to member countries and a symbol of European solidarity. The German also defended the European Green Deal, which aims in particular to make Europe the first carbon neutral continent in 2050.

This article is originally published on capital.fr

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