In Brief: After several delays, the new EU Commission has been approved

Ursula von der Leyen will take over as EU Commission President, alongside her new team, on December 1.

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German CDU lawmaker Ursula von der Leyen will officially take over as European Commission president on Sunday, December 1, becoming the first woman to hold the position.

Von der Leyen was originally supposed to take over the job from Luxembourg politician Jean-Claude Junker on November 1, but there were delays in confirming her team of commissioners. Three of her candidates were rejected and the UK failed to nominate a commissioner amid Brexit chaos.

As EU Commission President, von der Leyen will play a critical role in setting the policy agenda and determining which legislative proposals move forward. The EU Commission is the executive branch of the European Union and the only body that can propose EU laws.

From 2013 through this past July, she served as Germany’s minister of defense. Von der Leyen is a trained doctor and the mother of seven children.

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During the general debate in the Bundestag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the continuation of the Grand Coalition between her CDU/CSU party and the SPD.

Merkel said the ruling coalition has accomplished significant progress and still has more to achieve. The chancellor also challenged the view that freedom of expression in Germany is at risk, something that some lawmakers have claimed in recent months.

She addressed her comments to “those who claim that they are no longer allowed to speak their mind,” and said, anyone sharing their views must accept that objection and disagreement with their perspectives can occur.

Merkel also spoke about the importance of NATO, digitalization, and climate protection. Several aspects of Germany’s 2020 federal budget still need to be defined, such as defense spending.

The final vote on the entirety of Germany’s federal budget will commence on Friday.

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The health of forests in Berlin and Brandenburg has deteriorated dramatically, according to a report released by the Berlin Senate on Wednesday.

The findings show only every tenth tree is healthy in most parts of the region. Areas that have significant damage have increased by more than 20% over last year’s data, with oaks and pines hit particularly hard.

The Senate plans to plant around 335,000 new deciduous trees in Berlin forests this autumn. The Senate is also considering setting up new wells so that firefighters can access water more quickly in the event of forest fires.

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