Monday 14 October 2019

Von der Leyen to sleep in apartment beside her office in European Commission headquarters

The European Commission’s president-elect, Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: REUTERS/Yves Herman
The European Commission’s president-elect, Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: REUTERS/Yves Herman

James Crisp

The next president of the European Commission revealed yesterday she will sleep in the EU executive's offices rather than rent an apartment in Brussels.

Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to lead the commission, has made plans for a tiny flat to be built on the 13th floor of the commission's Berlaymont headquarters, where the president's office is. The 25sqm residence will be nestled next to her office and Ms von der Leyen, who takes over from Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1, will stay there on week nights. She will spend weekends at her home in Hanover, Germany.

Officials close to the German former defence minister, who will be paid €304,000 salary plus expenses and perks, said the decision would save the cost of security guarding a rented property or hotel elsewhere in Brussels. The Berlaymont is already under guard. Sources said a private area of Mr Juncker's offices would be renovated to make the flat, described as "modest".

It would also reduce the risk of Mrs von der Leyen being caught up in the Belgian capital's notoriously bad morning traffic, the official claimed.

Ms von der Leyen (60) has said she will strive to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050.

The president of the European Commission does not get an official residence in Brussels but does get a pounds €4,000 per month accommodation allowance.

An official said that Mrs von der Leyen did not receive any allowances in her contract and had not asked for one. "This is not a question for her at the moment," he said.

"We can confirm that the president-elect would like to use an existing personal retreat next to the president's office to stay overnight during her days in Brussels," the official said, confirming a report in the German newspaper 'Die Welt'.

Her "main residence was always and remains Hanover" in Germany, the official said. Ms von der Leyen has seven children, who have all left home. Her husband lives and works in Hanover.

Ms von der Leyen faced criticism for living in a 7.5sqm room in the German defence ministry in Berlin when she was minister in charge of the army.

Opposition politicians accused her of using the room to avoid paying rent in the German capital. She stayed in the three different German ministries where she worked in Berlin from 2005.

The unprecedented decision to take up residence in the 1967 headquarters has raised eyebrows in Brussels. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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