New EU chief 'to sleep in her office'

Ursula von der Leyen is planning to live in a tiny apartment attached to her Brussels office, her staff has told AFP.

    EU Commission President-designate Ursula Von der Leyen is set to stay in her office during her normal working week [Francois Lenoir/Reuters]
    EU Commission President-designate Ursula Von der Leyen is set to stay in her office during her normal working week [Francois Lenoir/Reuters]

    The incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen plans to live in a tiny apartment attached to her Brussels office, rather than rent an apartment locally, her staff told AFP news agency on Thursday.

    The job comes with no official residence - a fact that irked von der Leyen's predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, who complained to a German newspaper that he was forced to live in a hotel suite at a cost of 3,250 euros ($3,560) a month.

    Instead, von der Leyen is having a 25-square-metre (270-square-foot) room next to her office on the 13th floor of the commission's Berlaymont building converted so she can sleep there during the week.

    She followed a similar practice while she was the German defence minister, staying in her Berlin office and returning to her family home near Hanover at weekends.

    Main residence in Germany

    An official close to von der Leyen said living in the highly-secured Berlaymont would save the cost of guarding a separate apartment. It would also mean she would not be caught up in Brussels' notorious rush-hour traffic and risk being late for work.

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    "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, about 500km (310 miles) from Brussels, the official said.

    On top of her 28,000-euro ($30,700) monthly salary as commission president, von der Leyen receives an accommodation allowance of 4,185 euros ($4,600). It was not immediately clear if she would continue to claim this while living in her office.

    A brief internet search of Brussels real estate shows you can get a five-bedroom house in the Belgian capital's suburbs for that price - though that doesn't include any travel or security expenses.

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    Von der Leyen starts her job at the helm of the European Commission in November. One of her top priorities is moving Europe towards a carbon-neutral future.

    Earlier this year Juncker lamented his lack of official residence in an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper, saying he could not invite world leaders back and talk to them "sitting on the bed" in his hotel.

    The former Luxembourg premier said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg would sometimes invite him and EU Council President Donald Tusk to stay in his grace and favour residence "when we need a rest".

    SOURCE: AFP news agency