Ursula von der Leyen has been elected into the EU’s top job by a narrow margin after vowing to address climate change.

The 60-year-old former defence minister of Germany secured a majority in the Strasbourg-based assembly by just nine votes during Tuesday’s secret ballot to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.

“The trust you placed in me is confidence you placed in Europe. Your confidence in a united and strong Europe, from east to west, from south to north,” von der Leyen said in a brief speech following the vote. “It’s a big responsibility and my work starts now… Let us work together constructively because the endeavour is a united and strong Europe.”

The German conservative’s nomination gained ground after Europe’s liberal bloc announced on Tuesday afternoon that it would back her.

That move brought her closer to securing the necessary 374 votes. She ended up scraping through with 383 votes. Her predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, had received 422 votes.

Von der Leyen’s victory should avert a summer of institutional infighting. But with such a narrow win, her position will be weakened even before she takes over as the commission’s first female leader in November.

Von der Leyen had barely two weeks to make her case since European leaders declared her the nominee after a tense three-day summit, casting aside candidates backed by parliament.


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