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Ursula von der Leyen to live in Brussels office

October 3, 2019

Citing cost-cutting and convenience, Ursula von der Leyen will make a room at the European Commission headquarters home when she takes over as president. She lived in even more modest digs at Germany's Defense Ministry.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen
Image: AFP

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen will live in a room next to her office, within the commission's headquarters in Brussels, her spokesman said on Thursday.

Von der Leyen, Angela Merkel's longest-serving cabinet member and most recently Germany's defense minister, is due to take office on November 1, succeeding the outgoing head of the European Union's executive, Jean-Claude Juncker.

German daily Die Welt reported that the 25-square-meter (270-square-foot) room was being prepared for living purposes on the 13th floor of the commission's main Berlaymont building.

Read more: Can von der Leyen fulfill her EU promises?

Von der Leyen's spokesman said the move would save money, seeing as security is already high in Berlaymont and there would be no need for additional measures to protect a separate residence. It also means von der Leyen would not have to commute daily on Brussels' busy roads and lose time in traffic.

Von der Leyen, who has held several government roles in Germany, used to live out of her ministries during the week, spending her free time and weekends with her husband and family when possible in their home near Hanover.

Her in-office bedroom at the Defense Ministry was famously just 7.5 square meters in size.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen and her family at their home in Hannover, Germany, in 2003
Von der Leyen and her family, seen here in 2003, have been based at their family home near Hanover for many yearsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Weihs

Large family home near Hanover

Von der Leyen's family — her seven children are in their 20s and 30s — are based at a rural residence on the outskirts of Hanover. In the past, she explained her modest living habits in Berlin by saying she liked to maximize the time she spent with her husband and children near the forest.

When asked whether she found feeding the animals they kept at home to be a chore, she said the effort was outweighed many times over by what they gave her in return.

"I get a lot of emotional cues," Von der Leyen said. "It's also nice to see when the chicks hatch or little goats are born, and then to see how the animals change. Their death is also part of it."

Juncker, the outgoing president who is from Luxembourg, has been living in a hotel apartment near the commission.

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