(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Ursula von der Leyen has been confirmed as the European commission’s first female president and the first German in the job for more than 50 years.
In a secret ballot, MEPs voted narrowly to support the German defence minister as a replacement for Jean-Claude Juncker when he steps down on 31 October.
She won the support of 383 MEPs, nine votes more than required to secure an absolute majority but below the 400 threshold that would have given her a stable majority to get her policies through parliament over the next five years.
She will take over from Juncker on the day that Boris Johnson, who is likely to be the next British prime minister, has said he will take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal.
Von der Leyen said she would be open to Brexit being delayed further “for a good reason” although she insisted the withdrawal agreement would not be renegotiated.
After the announcement of the result, she said: “The trust you place in me is confidence you place in Europe. Confidence in a united and strong Europe, from east to west, from south to north. The confidence in a Europe that is ready to fight for the future rather than fight against each other.”
Asked whether she would prefer Johnson or Jeremy Hunt to become the next British prime minister, she told reporters: “I do not know [either] of them personally and there is a golden rule which I respect that I will work in a very constructive way with every head of state and government.”