Ursula von der Leyen with Angela Merkel. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Newly confirmed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister and loyal lieutenant to Chancellor Angela Merkel, will be the first woman ever and the first German since 1967 to lead the European Union’s Executive Branch.

Why it matters: Von der Leyen’s confirmation is a victory for leaders of European member states — particularly France’s Emmanuel Macron — over the European Parliament, and for the Franco-German tandem over smaller states. But stark divisions in the Parliament will make it difficult to pass much of her policy agenda.

Details: Von der Leyen eked out a 382-vote victory in the European Parliament on Tuesday, a majority of only 9 votes.

  • The unusual coalition for Von der Leyen's candidacy included Merkel’s European People’s Party, most of Macron’s centrist Renew Europe and many center-left Social Democrats (mainly from Italy, Portugal and Spain).
  • Joining them were a mix of Euro-skeptic and anti-establishment parties like Poland’s Law and Justice Party and Italy’s 5-Star Movement.
  • Most Greens, Far Left and German Social Democrats refused to support her.

Between the lines: Von der Leyen’s nomination speech in Strasbourg wove a delicate web of policy proposals to secure support: a climate package, tech taxation, a bloc-wide minimum wage proposal and gender equality measures.

  • She also proposed a new rule of law mechanism that would allow for comparisons in areas like corruption and institutional independence across member states, an idea opposed by her government backers in Poland and Hungary.
  • In a concession, she proposed allowing the European Parliament to initiate legislation — until now, a closely guarded power of the Commission.

Where it stands: European Commission Secretary General Martin Selmayr will leave his position next week — ostensibly because he, like von der Leyen, is German and a Christian Democrat. He indicated his successor will likely be French, calling the Commission a “Franco-German project.”

  • Back in Berlin, von der Leyen’s appointment has raised new doubts about whether Merkel’s grand coalition will last through 2019. In a surprise move, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — CDU chairwoman and Merkel’s presumptive successor — has been named defense minister.

What to watch: In coming months, Von der Leyen will assemble a team of 27 Commissioners, one nominated by each of the member states.

  • Her Commission will have hearings early in the fall, before her 5-year term formally begins on Nov. 1.
  • She has already indicated a willingness to delay the Brexit deadline, currently slated for Oct. 31.

The bottom line: The hasty stitch-up necessary to secure von der Leyen's mandate, combined with the European Parliament’s new fragmentation, could place her in a position of weakness when she takes office.

  • A disunited EU would be poorly positioned to tackle the collective challenges of rising populism and Euro-skepticism, deepening trade wars, the ongoing Mediterranean refugee crisis, Russian democratic and Chinese economic interference, and an erratic Trump administration.

Tyson Barker is a program director and fellow at the Aspen Institute Germany and a former senior adviser at the U.S. Department of State.

Go deeper

Amy Coney Barrett's immediate impact

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In her first week on the job, Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.

Texas Democrats beg Biden to spend now

Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is rebuffing persistent pleas from Texas Democrats to spend at least $10 million in the Lone Star state, several people familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: If Texas — which has 38 electoral votes and is steadily getting more blue, but hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976 — flipped to the Biden column, it would be game over. But the RealClearPolitics polling average stubbornly hovers at +2.6 for Trump — and Team Biden appears more focused on closer targets.

Election night in Trumpworld

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Chris Carlson-Pool/Getty Images

A luxe election-night watch party at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is being planned for President Trump's donors, friends and advisers — but Trump's hand in it is minimal because he's "very superstitious" — people familiar with the plans tell Axios.

The big picture: This "mecca for all things MAGA," as one adviser described it, is one of three hubs where they say Trumpworld will watch returns. The others are the war room at campaign HQ in Rosslyn, Virginia, and the White House residence, where Trump and the first lady will gather close family and advisers before heading to the hotel later that night, the sources said.