CDU party leader AKK to replace von der Leyen as defense minister

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Shortly after Ursula von der Leyen’s election as the new head of the EU Commission an unexpected successor has already been found for her seat in the cabinet: CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The 56-year-old will thus succeed Ursula von der Leyen, who the European Parliament had recently elected as the new President of the EU Commission. Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert confirmed the appointment this evening. Earlier, the CDU steering committee had agreed on it.

The change comes as a surprise, because it had always been said that Kramp-Karrenbauer did not want to join Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, but would concentrate instead on her task as CDU leader. The news agency dpa reported that the decision had also come as a complete surprise to many in the CDU leadership. Otherwise no changes in the federal cabinet are planned.

Speculations about Spahn prior to the decision

Many had previously assumed that Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn would succeed von der Leyen in office. He had applied last year for the CDU chairmanship, but lost to Kramp-Karrenbauer. Merkel had already announced after von der Leyen’s retreat as minister that this important function could not remain vacant for too long.

CDU Vice-Chairman Thomas Strobl called the decision a surprise and a “good decision”. Germany’s CDU is now sending “their number one” to the federal government. This would also do justice to the importance of the Bundeswehr (German federal army). According to him, after all Kramp-Karrenbauer had already been Minister of the Interior in the past – in Saarland – and thus held responsibility in security matters, and bringing with her relevant experience.

CSU chairman Markus Söder also welcomed the decision in favour of AKK. “This is the strongest solution. This gives the government new strength”, said the Bavarian Prime Minister.

Von der Leyen had declared on Monday that she would make her office available as early as Wednesday. “The Federal Chancellor is informed about this step and will initiate the necessary steps for a responsible transition in the sense of the Bundeswehr and the security of Germany”, it was said in a letter from the outgoing minister of the troops.

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