German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favored successor and the leader of her center-right CDU party will become the country’s next defense minister, an official statement said Tuesday, after Ursula von der Leyen was elected European Commission president.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, best known to Germans as “AKK,” will be appointed on Wednesday, July 27 during a handover in Berlin with her predecessor von der Leyen and the first vice president of the Bundesrat upper house, which confirmed the news in a statement.
Merkel ally Von der Leyen, who had served as defense minister since 2013, said on Monday she would step down whether or not she was confirmed as the new European Commission President. A total of 383 MEPs from the 751-member assembly narrowly backed her in a Tuesday vote, and she becomes the first woman to hold the top job in the powerful E.U. executive body.
An avowed supporter of closer E.U. integration, Von der Leyen’s views are somewhat controversial, not least her apparent preference for a European army.
Before Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is widely seen as the chancellor’s chosen heir, was announced as the new minister, Merkel had said there would be a “very fast replacement,” and Kramp-Karrenbauer was widely expected to take the role.
“The defense ministry, the defense minister, hold command and military authority. We cannot leave this post empty for long,” Merkel said.
It will be the first ministerial post for Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was born in Saarland, near the French border, and has become a leading figure in German politics.
Sometimes called “mini-Merkel”, she has been poised to take over as chancellor since becoming CDU chief in December after Merkel announced she would not seek another term when her current one ends in 2021.
However the 56-year-old’s appointment to the difficult post on Tuesday evening came as a surprise to some, after she came under strong criticism for the CDU’s poor results in May’s European Parliament election.
With reporting from AFP