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Tuesday April 7th, 2020 4:44AM

The Latest: EU choices for top posts strike gender balance

By The Associated Press
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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the European Union summit (all times local):

8:25 p.m.

European Union leaders have decided on four top positions to lead the world's biggest trade bloc through the next years, and for the first time ever half of them went to women.

Arguably the two most important jobs — heading the European Commission and leading the European Central Bank — look likely to go to experienced women. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is in line to become the new president of the bloc's powerful executive, and Christine Lagarde of the ECB which sets monetary policy for the 19 EU nations that share the euro currency.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said after the EU summit that "first and foremost, we have chosen two women and two men for the four key positions. A perfect gender balance."

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8:10 p.m.

Ursula von der Leyen, a surprise choice to become the next head of the European Union's executive Commission, is a strong supporter of closer European cooperation who has been Germany's defense minister since 2013 and a fixture in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet over the longtime leader's nearly 14 years in power.

Von der Leyen, 60, was born in Brussels and spent her early years in the Belgian capital. She speaks fluent English and French, having studied at the London School of Economics in the 1970s and lived in Stanford, California from 1992 to 1996.

She was long viewed as a potential successor to Merkel, but has had a tough tenure at the head of the notoriously difficult defense ministry and had long since faded out of contention by the time Merkel stepped down last year as leader of her center-right Christian Democratic Union party.

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8 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it's important that European Union finally achieved broad unity in nominating its future leaders.

Merkel said after EU leaders broke three days of deadlock that "everyone had to move and did move."

She told reporters: "It is important that we were able to decide with great unity today, and that it is important because it's about our future ability to work." Merkel added that in view of the very different views going into the summit, "it is of great value that we succeeded in this."

The package put together Tuesday foresees Merkel's defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, becoming president of the EU's executive Commission. Merkel said: "For me it is also a good sign that a woman will have this office for the first time." She noted that, if approved, von der Leyen also will be the first German head of the European executive for 52 years.

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7:30 p.m.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says she is giving up her IMF duties temporarily now that European Union leaders nominated her for the presidency of the European Central Bank.

Lagarde, currently serving as the IMF's managing director, said in a tweet that she was honored by the nomination in Brussels on Tuesday.

She said: "I have decided to temporarily relinquish my responsibilities" as the head of IMF during the EU's selection period.

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7:10 p.m.

European Union leaders have broken three days of deadlock and nominated new heads for the 28-nation bloc's institutions.

European Council President Donald Tusk said in a series of tweets Tuesday that German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been backed to become president of the executive European Commission, and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel the head of the European Council.

Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde has been nominated as the head of the European Central Bank and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell as EU foreign policy chief.

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7 p.m.

German European Union lawmaker Manfred Weber says he's resigning as lead candidate for the center-right European People's Party, the biggest group in the EU parliament, ending his run for one of Europe's top jobs.

Weber's spokesman tweeted that Weber told EPP colleagues in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday that "this is where my journey started last September as lead candidate, and this is where it ends."

The Bavarian lawmaker was backed by leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel to take over as president of the EU's powerful executive arm, the European Commission, for the next five years.

Weber was long considered favorite to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker from November.

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4:35 p.m.

European Union leaders are considering a list of top job candidates that would have German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen become president of the executive European Commission and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel the head of the European Council.

A diplomat close to the negotiations called the names "a point of departure" as EU leaders reconvened Tuesday for a formal summit after two days of negotiations.

The 28 leaders of member countries had a previous package of candidates on Monday but it fell apart when the list was vetted for final approval by the prime ministers and presidents.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the approval process was ongoing. 

The new list has Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde as the head of the European Central Bank and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell as EU foreign policy chief. 

-By Raf Casert. 

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12:05 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk is delaying the start of a summit in Brussels to consult with EU leaders in an attempt to overcome the impasse over appointments to the bloc's top jobs.

Tusk spokesman Preben Aamann tweeted Tuesday that the summit will begin at 1 p.m. Brussels time (1100 GMT), two hours later than planned, and that the meeting chairman "continues his consultations."

Camera operators and photographers have not been allowed in to film any of the deliberations.

The summit started Sunday and broke up in acrimony at lunch time on Monday.

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10:25 a.m.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says getting Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans to lead the EU's executive Commission will be not be acceptable to several eastern member states and Italy. 

Arriving for the third of an EU summit, Babis said "we want a Commission chief with whom we can discuss normally."

Timmermans, he said has had "a negative view of region" during his time as an EU Commission vice president.

East European countries have taken much of the blame for the failure of EU leaders to agree on who should succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president for the coming five years.

Babis said "our problem is only one name, and our colleagues didn't understand this for 24 hours," in a pointed reference to the failed all-night negotiating session that ended Monday. 

EU leaders are gathering again to try to forge a consensus on who should lead the Commission as well as other top jobs within the EU.

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10 a.m.

European Union leaders are gathering again to try to overcome an embarrassing deadlock over a series of job nominations to key posts at the bloc for at least the next five years.

In one of the longest EU summits in recent years, the leaders are looking Tuesday to name a new president of the EU's powerful executive arm, the European Commission, a president of the European Council and a foreign policy chief.

The European Parliament is set to vote Wednesday on its new president, while the new chairman of the European Central Bank could be named later.

The leaders are struggling to show the EU is still relevant and coherent after the bloc's two traditional center-right and left powers lost votes in May's European elections.

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