European Union suspends summit to choose new leaders after record deadlock

EMMANUEL DUNAND  AFP  Getty Images

EMMANUEL DUNAND AFP Getty Images

She was long viewed as a potential successor to Merkel, but has had a tough tenure at the head of the notoriously hard Defense Ministry and had long since faded out of contention by the time Merkel stepped down a year ago as leader of her center-right Christian Democratic Union Party.

Leaders hope the decision to put two women at the top of European Union decision-making for the first time will send a positive message and fix damage wrought by such a fractious summit, diplomats said. However Weber withdrew his candidacy in the final stages of the summit in support of Von der Leyen.

An ally of Angela Merkel, she got into politics at 43 and has held various local political roles in the Hanover region before becoming the German federal minister of family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth in 2005. The Brussels-born minister is a member of Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

Charles Michel, 43, now is the prime minister of Belgium.

With a weakened Merkel facing a rebellion by her center-right European People's Party (EPP) early on in the summit, efforts to push through a deal pre-agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron met stiff resistance from Italy, Poland and others.

He was elected to the Belgian Chamber of representatives in 1999, at 23, where he was the youngest MP in the House.

Most of the roles must be ratified by parliament.

Under a new plan, Timmermans would run the commission and the EPP's Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is now CEO of the World Bank, would become European Council president, several European sources told AFP.

Italy faces imminent action from the Commission - where Timmermans is now deputy head - over its high debt.

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She might be thinking that Ursula von der Leyen's career shows that being dubbed a Merkel successor and then taking on the hard defence ministry is the fastest route out of German politics.

A plan hatched during the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, by the EU's big guns to install socialist Frans Timmermans as president of the European Commission, while giving conservative rival Manfred Weber the post of European Parliament president has failed to convince. Ms Lagarde, 63, who is French, was as soon as the first girl to switch the Worldwide Monetary Fund (IMF) when she took the job in 2011.

The fifth position is the head of the European Council, whose job is to build compromises among the member states.

And the women were picked for what are arguably the two most important jobs of the four posts: heading the EU's executive Commission and leading the European Central Bank.

Established in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the president of the European commission leads the EU's executive branch, chairing a cabinet of 28 commissioners known as the college, and setting the bloc's policy agenda over a five-year term.

"It will now be for the European Parliament to consider Ursula von der Leyen for Commission president".

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC, received Ursula von der Leyen, German Federal Minister for Defence.

Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he had received a commitment from fellow leaders that a socialist would now lead the European Commission's Economics and Financial Affairs portfolio. In any event, since both of Estonia's commissioners to date (Ansip and Siim Kallas) had been men, a woman candidate was necessary to provide gender balance.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis slammed Timmermans as "absolutely unacceptable" to a group of Eastern European countries, setting the stage for more tough wrangling behind closed doors.

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