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Von der Leyen to present EU 'vision' within fortnight
[STRASBOURG, France] German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, nominated to lead the European Commission, said Wednesday she would present her "vision" for the bloc's executive body within a fortnight.
"I intend to listen a lot in order to be able to develop a dialogue with the Council and the Parliament, a five-year vision for Europe within the next two weeks," she said in her first remarks to the press since becoming the first woman to be named as head of the European Commission.
Ms Von der Leyen, a minister for the past 14 years under German Chancellor Angela Merkel, still has to be approved by the European parliament in a vote scheduled for mid-July before she can take over from outgoing commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
The European Parliament is more fragmented than ever after the May election saw solid gains by the liberals and Greens as well as the far-right and eurosceptics.
Ms Von der Leyen wasted no time in her campaign to court MEPs, appearing in Strasbourg for talks with her centre-right EPP family on Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after winning the leaders' nod.
"This is where the heart of democracy beats," she said following brief talks with David Sassoli who was confirmed Wednesday as the new president of the 751-seat European Parliament.
Once approved, Ms von der Leyen will lead a commission facing a host of challenges, ranging from climate change to disinformation, populism and Brexit.
She is set to take office on November 1 - the day after Britain is currently due to leave the bloc.
The first German in more than 50 years to hold the position, Ms von der Leyen has been an advocate for closer EU integration, calling for a "United States of Europe".
After a "long and difficult" campaign for the European elections, it is "crucial to show our unity and our common passion for Europe, which is so important in this world and needs to be both heard and seen," Ms von der Leyen told journalists Wednesday.
A parliamentary source said she had "introduced herself and presented her career path" during her meeting with MEPs from the EPP bloc.
She spoke in German, English and French, and "answered several questions", the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.