The new-look EU: Key movers and shakers

Nominee for President of European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen
Nominee for President of European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen
European Council President Charles Michel
European Council President Charles Michel
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde
EU Foreign Policy Chief Nominee Josep Borrell
EU Foreign Policy Chief Nominee Josep Borrell

As the European Union’s importance on the world stage grows, its politics are fragmenting. Smaller, more ideological parties, including populists and nationalists, have made gains and weakened the traditional, more centrist parties. How have the bloc’s leaders responded? By calling on strong consensus builders to head up its key institutions. Here are the major names you need to know.

NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF EUROPEAN COMMISSION URSULA VON DER LEYEN

Germany’s centre-right Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, 60, will be returning to the city of her birth, Brussels, once she is confirmed to lead the European Union’s most important institution and her father’s former workplace: the European Commission.

A medical doctor and economist by training, she is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party.

She is likely to bring a fervour for more European integration to the job – music to the ears of much of her 32,000-strong staff of bureaucrats, but less so to sceptical leaders in countries like Hungary and Poland, who would like to keep their nations’ priorities front and centre.


EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT CHARLES MICHEL

The new European Council president will be Mr Charles Michel, the acting prime minister of Belgium, which has still not formed a government following national elections in May.

 

Mr Michel, 43, is known for being a deft coalition-builder and for his discreet manner and diplomatic language, which often allow space for compromise. He will not require confirmation by members of the European Parliament.


EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK PRESIDENT CHRISTINE LAGARDE

Already one of the world’s most prominent policymakers, Ms Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, will head up the European Central Bank.

 

Ms Lagarde, 63, was named directly to the central bank, and does not require a confirmation. She is widely regarded as a tough and energetic negotiator, qualities she will need to coordinate monetary policy and major economic decisions for the 19 nations, encompassing about 340 million people who use the euro.


EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF NOMINEE JOSEP BORRELL

The role of the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy is seen as less prestigious than the other top institutional positions, but its importance has grown, especially as the bloc tries to save its fraying nuclear deal with Iran.

 

The man nominated to the role is Mr Josep Borrell, 72, a Spanish socialist, former president of the European Parliament and Spain’s current foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

His EU credentials are strong. In 2004, he led the grouping of socialist parties in the European Parliament elections and was chosen as the institution’s president, serving a full term that ended in 2009.

He will require the Parliament’s confirmation for the role.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'The new-look EU: Key movers and shakers'. Print Edition | Subscribe