The European Commission president nominee Ursula von der Leyen called for more unity within the bloc at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. She spoke ahead of a vote which will decide if she becomes the first woman to take the EU's top job.

Von Der Leyen said a united position would help the EU members to face challenges posed by populism and authoritarian tendencies. "We want multilateralism. We want fair trade. We defend the rules-based order because we know it is better for all of us. We have to do it the European way", said Von der Leyen.

The nominee called fighting climate change the most pressing global challenge and said that her goal was to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

Von der Leyen also pledged to make gender equality mandatory in the European Parliament. "If member states do not propose enough female commissioners, I will not hesitate to ask for new names. Since 1958 there have been 183 commissioners, only 35 were women. that is less, less, than 20 percent. We represent half of our population, we want our fair share", she said.

Referring to the Brexit process, Von Der Leyen announced she would back an extension to the UK's withdrawal from the EU if it's justified. She stressed that Britain will remain the bloc's ally and friend.

Von der Leyen, who was nominated earlier this month by EU leaders, will need 374 votes to get the top post in the vote later on Tuesday.

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