Ursula von der Leyen

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Ursula von der Leyen
Von der Leyen 2010.jpg
Federal Minister of Defence
Incumbent
Assumed office
17 December 2013
Preceded by Thomas de Maizière
Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
In office
30 November 2009 – 17 December 2013
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Franz Josef Jung
Succeeded by Andrea Nahles
Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
In office
22 November 2005 – 30 November 2009
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Renate Schmidt
Succeeded by Kristina Schröder
Minister of Social Affairs, Women, Family Affairs and Health of Lower Saxony
In office
4 March 2003 – 22 November 2005
Governor Christian Wulff
Preceded by Gitta Trauernicht
Succeeded by Mechthild Ross-Luttmann
Personal details
Born (1958-10-08) 8 October 1958 (age 55)
Ixelles, Belgium
Political party Christian Democratic Union
Spouse(s) Heiko von der Leyen
Children 7
Alma mater University of Göttingen
University of Münster
London School of Economics
Hannover Medical School
Religion Lutheranism

Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen (born 8 October 1958 in Brussels) is a German politician of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, and the current Federal Minister of Defence, the first woman in German history to hold that office.

She served as the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the Second Merkel Cabinet and as Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in the First Merkel Cabinet (2005–2009). By profession she is a physician.

Throughout her time in the federal government, Von der Leyen has been tipped as a successor to Merkel.[1][2][3][4][5] She regularly polls among the most popular politicians in Germany.[6]

Early life[edit]

Ursula von der Leyen is the daughter of Ernst Albrecht, a prominent CDU politician and former European Commission official, as well as a long-time Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. Her brother is businessman Hans-Holger Albrecht.

She was born in Ixelles in Brussels, where her father worked for the European Commission (as a Director-General from 1969). This allowed her to attend the European School until 1971, when the family decided to move to Lehrte in Hanover.[7]

Ursula von der Leyen is a descendant of Baron Ludwig Knoop, a cotton merchant of the city-state of Bremen and one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 19th century.[8]

Education[edit]

Ursula von der Leyen started her studies in 1977 in the field of economics, at the universities of Göttingen, Münster and London School of Economics. While studying in London in 1978, she used the pseudonym "Rose Ladson" because she was seen as a potential terrorism target for West German left-wing extremists.[9] In 1980, she dropped her studies in economics, switching to medicine. She subsequently studied at Hanover Medical School, whence she graduated in 1987 after seven years.[10]

From 1988 to 1992, she worked as an assistant doctor at the Women's Clinic of the Medical School of the University of Hanover. Upon completing her postgraduate studies, she earned a doctorate in medicine (Dr. med.) in 1991. From 1992 to 1996 she worked as a housewife in Stanford, California while her husband was a faculty member of Stanford University.

From 1998 to 2002, she was a faculty member at the Department of Epidemiology, Social Medicine and Health System Research at the Medical School of the University of Hanover, where in 2001, she earned a Master's Degree in Public Health.[11] She grew up bilingually in Belgium and speaks German and French at a native level as well as English.[12]

Political career[edit]

Ursula von der Leyen joined the CDU in 1990, and became active in politics in 1999, entering local politics in 2001 in the area of Hanover. She was elected to the Parliament of Lower Saxony in 2003, and from 2003 to 2005 she was a cabinet minister in the state government of Lower Saxony in the cabinet of Christian Wulff, responsible for social affairs, women, family and health. In 2005 she was appointed Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in the cabinet of Angela Merkel.

Von der Leyen was elected to the Bundestag, the Parliament of Germany, in the 2009 federal election. She succeeded Franz Josef Jung as Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs on 30 November 2009.[13] During that time, she cultivated an image as "the social conscience of her party"[14] and helped Merkel move the CDU into the political center.[15] By speaking out in favour of increasing the number of nurseries and the introduction of a women's quota for listed companies' supervisory boards, gay marriage and a nationwide minimum wage, Von der Leyen made enemies among the more traditionalist party members and won admirers on the left.[16] She was initially considered the front runner for the nomination of the ruling CDU/CSU and FDP parties for President of Germany in the 2010 election,[17] but Christian Wulff was ultimately chosen as the candidate.

In 2013, Ursula von der Leyen was appointed as Germany's first female defense minister.[18] By placing a major party figure such as Von der Leyen at the head of the Defense Ministry, Merkel was widely seen as reinvigorating the scandal-ridden ministry’s morale and prestige.[19] Along with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, Von der Leyen is one of only three ministers with Merkel since she became chancellor in 2005.[20]

Political views[edit]

Childcare and parental leave[edit]

Ursula von der Leyen assumed her office as Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in 2005. Amidst much protest, particularly from the conservative wing of her own party, the CDU, Ursula von der Leyen introduced the Child Advancement Act (Kinderförderungsgesetz), which reserved 4.3 billion euros to create childcare structures throughout Germany.[21]

Ursula von der Leyen also introduced the German Elternzeit, a paid parental leave scheme which, following Scandinavian models, reserving two additional months for fathers who go on parental leave as well (Vätermonate in German). This part of the law in particular attracted protest from some German conservatives. Catholic Bishop Walter Mixa accused von der Leyen of turning women into "Birthing Machines", while Bavarian colleagues from von der Leyen's sister party, the CSU, complained that men did not need a "diaper-changing internship."[22] Von der Leyen successfully influenced public opinion of her reforms with a 3 million Euro PR campaign, which was criticized for using public funds for political advocacy and for employing embedded marketing techniques.[23]

Blocking internet child pornography[edit]

Demonstration on 17 April 2009 against the planned mandatory blockage of child pornography.

Ursula von der Leyen advocated the initiation of a mandatory blockage of child pornography on the Internet through Internet service providers via a block list maintained by the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA), thus creating the basic infrastructure for extensive censorship of websites deemed illegal by the BKA.[24]

These actions brought her the nickname "Zensursula", a portmanteau word blending the German word for censorship (“Zensur”) and her given name (“Ursula”).[25] The combination of a sensitive topic like child pornography and internet censorship is said to have caused a rising interest in the Pirate Party.[26]

In July 2009 she referred to the problems of struggling against pedophile pornography on the internet as the responsible persons often use servers located in Africa or India, where "child pornography is legal”.[27][28] This claim was based on a study by the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2006;[29] however, child pornography is in fact illegal in India. Indeed, Indian society has much stricter rules about erotic media than Germany. Ursula von der Leyen later expressed regret for having cited an inaccurate study.[30]

Youth protection[edit]

She was in charge of the request to ban and the rating of the Rammstein album Liebe ist für alle da by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien.[31]

Foreign policy[edit]

Von der Leyen is a proponent of a more assertive foreign policy.[32][33] On the deteriorating relationship between Europe and Russia during the 2014 Crimean crisis, she argued that “the reliance on a functioning business relationship with Europe is much, much bigger in Russia” and that sanctions should prod the oligarchs and Russian business.[34] She also called for greater NATO backing of the Baltic states amid the Crimean dispute.[35]

European Union[edit]

In a 2011 interview with Der Spiegel, Von der Leyen expressed her preference for "a united states of Europe – run along the lines of the federal states of Switzerland, Germany or the USA" which would capitalize on Europe's size by agreeing on core issues relating to finance, tax and economic politics.[36] Merkel slapped down Von der Leyen, then labor minister, that same year for demanding Greece offer collateral for emergency loans to avoid possible default.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Ursula von der Leyen is married to Heiko von der Leyen, a professor of medicine, the CEO of a business development company (medical engineering) and a member of the von der Leyen family, a family noted as silk industralists. She met him at a university choir in Göttingen.[38]

Ursula and Heiko von der Leyen have seven children, David (1987), Sophie (1989), Maria Donata (1992), twins Victoria and Johanna (1994), Egmont (1998) and Gracia (1999).[39][40]

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stefan Wagstyl (December 15, 2013), Merkel cabinet choice set to restart debate on successor Financial Times.
  2. ^ Judy Dempsey (December 16, 2013), [1] Carnegie Endowment.
  3. ^ Gordon Repinski (December 17, 2013), Military in Flux: What's In Store for Ursula von der Leyen Der Spiegel.
  4. ^ Merkel takes oath of office, begins third term Deutsche Welle, December 17, 2013.
  5. ^ A guide to future chancellors? The Economist, December 21, 2013.
  6. ^ Erik Kirschbaum (April 22, 2013), Feisty German minister stands up to Merkel Reuters.
  7. ^ Biography in whoswho.de (German)
  8. ^ "Der denkmalgeschützte Bau drohte zu verfallen: Altes Knoop-Mausoleum für 90000 Euro restauriert" (in (German)). Bild. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  9. ^ David Crossland (December 15, 2013), 'Heir to Angela Merkel' appointed Germany's first female defence minister The Daily Telegraph.
  10. ^ http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131216/DEFREG01/312160004/Germany-Appoints-1st-Female-Defense-Minister
  11. ^ Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung. "REGIERUNGonline - Ursula von der Leyen". Bundesregierung. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  12. ^ Von Alice Bota (29 December 2006). "Small Talk auf höchster Ebene" (in (German)). Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  13. ^ Spiegel.de, 27 November 2009 (German)
  14. ^ A guide to future chancellors? The Economist, December 21, 2013.
  15. ^ Stefan Wagstyl (December 15, 2013), Merkel cabinet choice set to restart debate on successor Financial Times.
  16. ^ Philip Oltermann (December 15, 2013), Ursula von der Leyen appointed as Germany's first female defence minister The Guardian.
  17. ^ "Köhler-Nachfolge: Arbeitsministerin Von der Leyen Favoritin". Nachrichten.at. 30 June 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  18. ^ Philip Oltermann (December 15, 2013), Ursula von der Leyen appointed as Germany's first female defence minister The Guardian.
  19. ^ Jonathan Laurence (December 23, 2013), New Government, New Responsibilities: Will Merkel's Team of Rivals Do Anything Differently? Brookings Institution.
  20. ^ Arne Delfs (January 22, 2014), Merkel Succession Beckons After Von der Leyen’s Defense Posting Businessweek.
  21. ^ [2][dead link]
  22. ^ "Full portrait of von der Leyen's work" (Press release). New York Times. 
  23. ^ Getarnte Werbung - Die fragwürdigen PR-Kampagnen der Bundesregierung ("Stealth advertising - The questionable PR campaigns of the federal government"). Report Mainz, Südwestrundfunk, 27 August 2007 (German)
  24. ^ Focus Online: Kinderpornografie: Der Traum von der Internetsperrung (German)
  25. ^ Der Spiegel Online: "Zensursula" geht in die Offensive (German)
  26. ^ Reißmann, Ole (16 October 2009). "Stoppschild für Zensursula" (in German). Spiegel.de. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  27. ^ MDR: Interview (German)
  28. ^ heise.de (German)
  29. ^ Spiegel.de, 15 July 2009 (German)
  30. ^ MDR.de "Von der Leyen gesteht Fehler ein" (German)
  31. ^ "Rammstein: "Liebe Ist Für Alle Da" wird verboten". Laut.de. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  32. ^ Alison Smale (February 1, 2014), Spurred by Global Crises, Germany Weighs a More Muscular Foreign Policy New York Times.
  33. ^ German foreign policy: No more shirking The Economist, February 8, 2014.
  34. ^ Alison Smale (March 12, 2014), Ukraine Crisis Limits Merkel’s Rapport With Putin New York Times.
  35. ^ German defense chief von der Leyen calls for stronger NATO backing in Ukraine crisis Deutsche Welle, March 23, 2014.
  36. ^ Helen Pidd (March 12, 2014), Ursula von der Leyen: Germany's next chancellor? The Guardian.
  37. ^ Arne Delfs (January 22, 2014), Merkel Succession Beckons After Von der Leyen’s Defense Posting Businessweek.
  38. ^ Erik Kirschbaum (April 22, 2013), Feisty German minister stands up to Merkel Reuters.
  39. ^ [3]
  40. ^ [4][dead link]
  41. ^ "DNB, Session abgelaufen" (in (German)). Portal.d-nb.de. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Renate Schmidt
Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
2005–2009
Succeeded by
Kristina Schröder
Preceded by
Franz Josef Jung
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
2009–2013
Succeeded by
Andrea Nahles
Preceded by
Thomas de Maizière
Minister of Defence
2013–present
Incumbent