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New European Commission begins fresh term under leadership of von der Leyen

The team took the reins as the 28-member union is faced with a mountain of difficulties, including Brexit.

belgium-eu-new-leadership European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty Source: Olivier Matthys via PA Images

THE EU’S NEW leadership has taken office today, one month later than planned, promising a more united Europe that would be ready to face major challenges, including fighting climate change.

Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen became president of the European Commission and marked the occasion in a short ceremony with her top EU official counterparts, including EU Council President Charles Michel who also started today.

The team took the reins as the 28-member union is faced with a mountain of difficulties, including the Brexit divorce with Britain and tense ties with superpowers China and the United States.

Von der Leyen said the officials gathered, who also included European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, must meet a great responsibility as guardians of the EU treaties.

“It is a responsibility towards the European people and towards our founding father and mothers, but it is also a responsibility towards our children,” she said.

It is our responsibility to leave a union that is stronger than the one we inherited: … a continent in peace with rights and liberties (and) a single market with unprecedented economic opportunities.

france-strasbourg-european-commission-election The new College of Commissioners at the headquarters of the European Parliament earlier this week Source: Zhang Cheng via PA Images

Former IMF chief Lagarde, who took office last month, stressed that the union had only recently left the damaging debt crisis and must look to the future.

“It’s a formidable challenge that awaits us, but my hope is that … we may leave this age of repairing (the EU) to one of renovation and hope,” she said.

Von der Leyen, who replaced EU veteran Jean-Claude Juncker, will lead a 27-strong team of commissioners who also began work today with a clear ambition to make Europe a global powerhouse on green policy.

European Parliament President David Sassoli said the MEPs would hold an extraordinary session on 11 December – the eve of an EU leaders summit – to receive the commission’s first climate proposals, dubbed the Green New Deal.

Today’s ceremony was officially the 10th anniversary of the latest European treaty that simplified an EU governance, which remains complicated and often criticised as too removed from the continent’s 500 million citizens.

Her mandate was due to start 1 November but was delayed after three of her initial nominees to the commission were rejected during the parliamentary confirmation process in an unprecedented snub.

- © AFP 2019

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