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EU and NATO under new leadership: Who's who

Mark Rutte, António Costa, Ursula von der Leyen and Kaja Kallas will be EU's new leaders.
Mark Rutte, António Costa, Ursula von der Leyen and Kaja Kallas will be EU's new leaders. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Marta Iraola Iribarren
Published on Updated
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The European Union is turning a new page in the same week when NATO appointed its new chief. Meet the key actors who will shape the next five years.

European Commission: Ursula von der Leyen

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Ursula von der Leyen will most likely succeed in returning as the European Commission president after securing the votes in the European Council. Only the endorsement of the European Parliament is standing between her and the Berlaymont, the Commission's headquarters in Brussels.   

Von der Leyen was first appointed in 2019, becoming the first female president of the European Commission. Since then, she has witnessed some of the most important events that have shaped the European Union over the past five years.   

The energy crisis, the growing threat of climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other geopolitical challenges marked a mandate that seems to have consolidated her position in Brussels.   

The COVID pandemic bisected her first Commission, and her initiative for the joint purchase of vaccines became a double-edged sword. Hailed at first as Europe’s saviour, her conduct was overshadowed by the lack of transparency and contradictory messages surrounding Europe’s vaccine plan.   

However, this doesn’t seem to have affected her candidacy for a second term as she quickly became the consensus candidate among the main political forces in the last mandate – EPP, S&D and Renew Europe.   

Only Italian Giorgia Meloni, who abstained from the vote, and Hungarian Viktor Orbán expressed their discontent with the agreement process by the rest of EU leaders.

A German national born in Ixelles, a suburb of Brussels, von der Leyen started her political career in local politics as a member of the Lower Saxony parliament. She is married to Heiko von der Leyen, and together they have seven children. 

European Council: António Costa

The Portuguese António Costa, a socialist, will be the new president of the European Council. After being elected by his counterparts, he will take office on 1 December, replacing Charles Michel.   

Following his appointment, Costa promised that his mandate would be one of continuity, "focused on putting on track the strategic agenda that the #EUCO has approved today and that will guide the European Union for the next five years".     

Costa was prime minister of Portugal between 2015 and 2024, a post he resigned from after initially being investigated for irregular investment deals in lithium and green hydrogen projects. His current status is that of a witness but that did not prove to be a stumbling block to his appointment.   

Since the investigation was first made public, Costa has consistently defended his innocence, saying he resigned from the government to preserve his political integrity.   

During his time in government, he allowed non-EU citizens to immigrate to Portugal without a work contract, creating an image of one of the most open immigration policies in the bloc, which drew opposition from far-right leaders.    

Costa is also well-liked by Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and has been a constructive partner in the European Council for almost a decade. 

Political analyst Ricardo Borges de Castro told Euronews' Isabel Silva that Costa is a skilled negotiator able to “bring together” positions of all leaders from all political colours and “get there where others would perhaps have more difficulty.” 

Costa has been married to Fernanda Maria Gonçalves Tadeu since 1987 and has two children. He will be the first person of colour ever to hold an EU top office.

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The Italian prime minister, Georgia Meloni, voted against his appointment at the Council meeting.    

High Representative: Kaja Kallas

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was selected by the European Council to be the next High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy following Josep Borrell.  

While Kallas has been backed by her colleagues in the Council, she still needs the green light from the European Parliament before she can be formally appointed. In a vote scheduled for September, she will need the support of a majority of the Parliament's foreign affairs committee.    

If appointed, she will become the first Eastern European in the role and the first Estonian ever to clinch one of the EU’s top jobs.    

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While serving as Prime Minister in Estonia, Kallas has been one of the strongest EU voices condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pushing for sanctions and sending military support.   

Her appointment also comes after Renew Europe -the liberal group she is part of- slipped to the fourth largest political force in the European Parliament following disappointing results in June's European elections.  

She is married to Arvo Hallik and has three children: two sons and a daughter. Her father, Siim Kallas, was also a politician: prime minister of Estonia between 2002 and 2003 before becoming European Commissioner between 2004 and 2014. 

In the Council meeting, she faced a negative vote from Italian Georgia Meloni and an abstention from Hungarian Viktor Orbán.  

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NATO: Mark Rutte

Ambassadors from NATO's 32 member nations on Wednesday formally nominated outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the alliance's next secretary general.   

He will take up his post on 1 October for a minimum term of four years, replacing former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg after a decade at the helm.  

Rutte first became prime minister of the Netherlands in 2010 and has since been the longest-serving prime minister in the country. He resigned last July after his four-party coalition fell apart over how to curb migration.

While serving as prime minister of the Netherlands, he lived in the same neighbourhood of The Hague where he grew up. He cycles to work every day and is known as a creature of habit.  

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He secured his own appointment, which had been opposed by Hungary's Orbán, over objections, including using the country's money to support Ukraine.  

Budapest lifted its veto on the deal after Rutte sent a letter to Orbán reassuring the Hungarian prime minister that, as head of NATO, Rutte would not use Budapest's military or spend Hungary's money to support Ukraine.  

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Rutte on his election as NATO's new secretary general: "Your leadership and experience will be crucial for the Alliance during these challenging times," she said.  

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