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European Parliament Narrowly Approves Von Der Leyen As President

Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during her statement for her candidacy at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on July 16.

BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has narrowly confirmed Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission, making her the first woman to lead the continental body.

The parliament on July 16 voted 383-327 in favor of the German center-right politician, with 22 abstentions.

Von der Leyen, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Markel, needed a minimum of 374 votes to be confirmed.

"The trust you placed in me is confidence you placed in Europe...your confidence in a united and a strong Europe from east to west, from south to north," she said after the vote.

Von der Leyen, who has served as German defense chief the past six years, was nominated by EU leaders after a marathon three-day summit in Brussels earlier this month but still required approval by lawmakers.

Many in the European Parliament expressed anger over the move by EU member states to sidestep the so-called "Spitzenkandidaten" system in which the candidate of the political group with the most votes in May's European Parliament elections would become commission president.

Von der Leyen sought to win over as many parliament members as possible by promising a gender-balanced European Commission, a potential extension of the Brexit date beyond October 31, and to introduce qualified-majority voting instead of the currently required unanimity on EU foreign-policy issues.

The commission president oversees a massive bureaucracy that helps set EU policy over the next five years.

Following von der Leyen's confirmation, the other 27 EU member states will now propose national nominees for the upcoming European Commission. Prospective commissioners will then face hearings at relevant European Parliament committees later in the year before the new commission starts its five-year term on November 1.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.