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New EU Commission chief promises ambitious agenda

Ursula von der Leyen said climate change was the priority for her team.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her speech (Jean_Francois Badias/AP)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her speech (Jean_Francois Badias/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

The EU Commission president-elect has said her ambitious agenda at the head of the European Union’s executive will centre on the “existential issue” of battling climate change.

Ursula von der Leyen told the EU plenary in Strasbourg, France, shortly before she and her team of commissioners were approved in a vote of 461/157 with 89 abstentions, that she would work on “a European Green Deal” so the EU can continue to be a global leader on the climate change issue.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Ms Von der Leyen said that “climate change is about all of us. We have the duty to act and the power to lead”.

She has said that she will come forward with a comprehensive plan within the first 100 days of her tenure, which is set to start on Sunday.

She has said that she will come forward with a comprehensive plan within the first 100 days of her tenure, which is set to start on Sunday.

Addressing Brexit, Ms Von der Leyen tweeted in English to insist on close cooperation with the UK although she said she was still a Remainer.

She tweeted: “We all know that one member of our family intends to leave our Union.

“I have made no secret that I will always be a Remainer.

“But I will also always respect the decision taken by the British people.”

The UK is currently due to leave the bloc on January 31.

There is no British commissioner after Boris Johnson chose not to nominate a new EU commissioner.

Ms Von der Leyen’s move into the position of European Commission, previously held by Jean-Claude Juncker, was delayed after the European Parliament delayed a vote on the appointment of her team because of displeasure with several of the candidate Commissioners on the 27-strong team.

The European Commission, the powerful executive arm of the European Union, proposes laws and ensures they are implemented throughout the bloc.

On December 1, the same day that Ms Von der Leyen takes office, Charles Michel will take over from EU Council president Donald Tusk.

And after years when the European Union was on the defensive and had to centre on emerging from the financial crisis and the impending departure of the United Kingdom from the bloc, Ms Von der Leyen hopes she can centre on more positive policies.

“Our greatest achievements have come when we are bold,” she said.

One issue where she already made major strides is gender balance.

The first female commission president got close to achieve gender balance among her team of commissioners and vowed that “every commissioner will have a gender-balanced cabinet”.

“It will change the face of the commission,” she said.

PA

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