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EU's Tusk asks European Parliament to approve von der Leyen

European Council President Donald Tusk attends a news conference after the European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium, July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday asked the European Parliament to approve Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen as the next head of the European Commission.

“For the first time, we achieved perfect gender balance in the top positions. Europe is not only talking about women, it is choosing women,” Tusk told the assembly, which will vote on von der Leyen in mid-July.

“I hope it will inspire the European Parliament in its decisions,” he said, after the bloc’s 28 national leaders assigned the EU’s top jobs for the five years ahead.

Their three-day deliberations were messy, highlighting the splintering of the pro-European center in the EU and its implications for future decision-making in the world’s largest trading bloc and its half a billion people.

But Tusk said their final decision was consensual and took less time than five years ago when the bloc had last elected its leadership to help navigate Europe on everything from trade to migration to security.

“It is clear that only when we are united can we counterbalance the most powerful global players,” he said.

While the EU’s top jobs have given solid representation for women and a balance between the conservatives, socialists and liberals, eastern members of the bloc have been left out, along with the Greens, who did well in May’s European Parliament elections.

Tusk urged that candidates from the east and Green parties be represented in second-tier jobs yet to be filled.

Addressing the parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, Slovak Commissioner Maros Sefcovic said the major challenges ahead included fighting climate change, agreeing on the bloc’s budget for 2021-27 and deepening euro zone integration.

Editing by Toby Chopra and Janet Lawrence