Born In: Ixelles, Belgium
Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen is an accomplished German politician who is presently serving as the President of the European Commission. Coming from the prominent Albrecht family, Ursula graduated from the Hannover Medical School as a physician and specialized in women's health. She was leading life as a housewife raising her children when she joined the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and became active in local politics in the Hanover region. During the 2003 state election, Ursula was elected to the Parliament of Lower Saxony and served as Lower Saxony Minister for Social Affairs, Women, Family and Health. She joined the federal cabinet in 2005 and went on to serve as Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth; and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs respectively before becoming the first woman to serve as Minister of Defence in Germany. When she left the federal cabinet in 2019, she emerged as the longest-serving member of Angela Merkel's cabinet. Meanwhile she served as Deputy Leader of the CDU. In December 2019, she became the first woman to assume office as President of the European Commission.
Also Known As: Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, Ursula Gertrud Albrecht
Spouse/Ex-: Heiko von der Leyen
father: Ernst Albrecht
mother: Adele Albrecht, Heidi Adele Stromeyer
siblings: Hans-Holger Albrecht
children: David von der Leyen, Egmont von der Leyen, Gracia von der Leyen, Johanna von der Leyen, Maria Donata von der Leyen, Sophie von der Leyen, Victoria von der Leyen
Born Country: Belgium
Notable Alumni: London School Of Economics, Hannover Medical School, University Of Münster
Ancestry: American German, English German
education: University of Göttingen, University of Münster, London School of Economics, Hannover Medical School
awards: Language adulterator award
Ursula Gertrud Albrecht was born on October 8, 1958, in Ixelles, Belgium, in the prominent Albrecht family of North Germany many of whose members have been noted as politicians, civil servants, and businesspersons. Her father Ernst Albrecht was a German politician of CDU and a high-ranking European civil servant who served as Director-General of the Directorate-General for Competition and as Minister President of Lower Saxony.
Ursula von der Leyen enrolled at the University of Göttingen in 1977 to study economic, however fled to London in 1978 after her family came to know of a plan of the Red Army Faction to kidnap her as her father was a prominent German politician. She had to live in London under the name Rose Ladson and with protection from Scotland Yard for over a year. There she joined the London School of Economics. She came back to Germany in 1979 and led her life with a security detail for many years.
She switched her field of study to medicine in 1980 and joined the Hannover Medical School and graduated as a physician from there in 1987. Thereafter she specialized in women's health. She joined the Women's Clinic of the Hannover Medical School in 1988 and served there as an assistant physician till 1992. In 1991, she completed her doctoral studies and graduated as a Doctor of Medicine. Years later in 2015 Ursula faced plagiarism accusations with regard to her doctoral thesis when researchers collaborating at the VroniPlag Wiki alleged that 43.5% of her dissertation pages contained plagiarism. After conducting an investigation, the Hannover Medical School concluded in March 2016 that although the thesis pages contained plagiarism any intention to deceive could not be proven and thus her medical degree was not revoked by the university.
In 1998, Ursula von der Leyen was inducted at the Hannover Medical School where she taught at the Department of Epidemiology, Social Medicine and Health System Research till 2002. Meanwhile she obtained her Master of Public Health degree from the institution in 2001.
In 1990, Ursula von der Leyen joined CDU and after living for four years in Stanford, California, she returned to Germany in 1996 and became actively involved in local politics in Lower Saxony. She fought during the 2003 Lower Saxony state election and was elected to the Parliament of Lower Saxony where she served as Minister for Social Affairs, Women, Family and Health from March 4, 2003 to November 22, 2005.
She joined the federal cabinet of Angela Merkel and served as Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth from November 22, 2005 to November 30, 2009. She thrived in her fight for the right to public day care for children as also for reconciliation of work and family life and went on to introduce the Child Advancement Act and the German Elternzeit, a paid parental leave scheme. She also advocated for blocking internet child pornography.
Ursula von der Leyen then served as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from November 30, 2009 to December 17, 2013. During such tenure, Ursula started a long campaign for women’s quotas in management and supervisory boards of listed German companies; spoke out for a nationwide minimum wage and for gay marriage. She advocated for lowering barriers to immigration for some foreign workers so as to mitigate shortages of skilled workers in Germany and concluded an agreement with the Government of the Philippines in such pursuit.
On November 15, 2010, Ursula assumed office as a Deputy Leader of CDU and served the position till November 22, 2019. For several years, Ursula was considered a leading candidate to succeed Merkel as Chancellor. The latter also preferred Ursula’s candidature for President of Germany in 2010, but the conservative wing of CDU/CSU blocked Ursula’s nomination. Since 2018, Ursula was also considered the favourite candidate to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO.
On December 17, 2013, Ursula von der Leyen became the Minister of Defence, the first woman to assume the position in Germany. She chaired the EPP Defence Ministers Meeting.
Her endeavours as Defence Minister of Germany include visiting the Bundeswehr troops thrice in Afghanistan; playing vital role in summer 2014 in Germany’s decision of resupplying lethal assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters; and opposing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. She made effort in reforming the German armed forces by introducing a €100 million plan in 2014 to attract more candidates for Bundeswehr. During her tenure in office, in 2015 Germany declared a significant increase in defence spending after severe NATO–Russian tensions developed in Europe.
The European Council proposed Ursula’s name as their candidate for the office of President of the European Commission on July 2, 2019, and on July 16 that year the European Parliament elected her as President marking her as first woman to hold the post. Ursula resigned her seat in the German Bundestag on July 31, 2019 and assumed office as President of the European Commission on December 1, 2019.
On September 10, 2019, she came up with the new proposed structure of EU Commission which includes renaming of several posts of the College of Commissioners. In March 2020, while Italy emerged as the European centre of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ursula’s Commission drew criticism after it rejected the idea of suspending the Schengen free travel zone so as to institute border controls around Italy. Ursula also expressed her strong disapproval after the US resolved to restrict travel to their country from the coronavirus-affected European nations.
Ursula von der Leyen is a member of the European Movement Germany network. She is a Member of the Board of Trustees of Total E-Quality initiative and Mädchenchor Hannover. She remained a Member of the Board of Trustees of 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup (2010-11) and World Economic Forum (2016-19); Member of the Advisory Council of Munich Security Conference (2013-19); and Co-Chair of World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa (2017).
Ursula von der Leyen met her future husband, Heiko von der Leyen, a member of the von der Leyen noble family, during a choir at the University of Göttingen. The two married on September 21, 1986. Heiko is German physician, aristocrat and professor of medicine.
The couple have seven children- David Echter born on August 21, 1987; Sophie Charlotte born on December 2, 1989; Maria Donata born on March 28, 1992; Victoria Ursula and Johanna Gertrud born on March 20, 1994; Egmont Ulrich born on March 12, 1998; and Gracia Diotima born on October 25, 1999. Ursula is an enthusiastic equestrian and remains involved with competitive horse riding. The family keep horses in their farm located near Hanover where they presently live.
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