July 2, 2019 / 3:24 PM / 3 months ago

Germany's von der Leyen mooted as EU Commission chief

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen reacts as she speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen emerged as a leading contender to head up the European Commission on Tuesday as part of a proposal to break a summit stalemate over who should run the EU’s top institutions.

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested von der Leyen for the powerful EU executive post and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde to run the European Central bank, diplomatic sources said as talks among EU leaders in Brussels ran into a third day. nL8N2431D3

While leaders are trying to balance political and regional affiliations within the bloc plus an acute lack of women in senior roles, there is no guarantee the proposal will fly.

Von der Leyen, 60, speaks fluent English and French but has had a tough time as German defense minister, a post she has held since 2013.

Her tenure has been marked by scandals over the awarding of contracts and right-wing extremism in the Bundeswehr, criticism about gaps in military readiness, and a crash between two German Eurofighter jets last month in which one pilot was killed.

She is a rarity in German politics in that she came to the game late, when she was 42, following a career in medicine.

A mother of seven who was born in Brussels and lived in Britain and the United States, von der Leyen grew up surrounded by politics. Her father, Ernst Albrecht, was a state premier for the state of Lower Saxony from 1976 to 1990.

She studied at the London School of Economics from 1977 to 1980, but used the pseudonym “Rose Ladson” due to concerns she might be targeted, as the daughter of a prominent politician, by left-wing guerrillas active in West Germany at the time.

A trained gynecologist, she was once hoisted out of a barrel on German entertainment TV by Hugh Jackman and kissed by George Clooney after handing him an award for promoting peace.

Reporting by Paul Carrel; editing by Mark John

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