EU chief testifies at German defence inquiry, admits mistakes

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen defended the use of external experts during her time as German defence minister as she testified Thursday before a parliamentary inquiry, but conceded that mistakes were made. Von der Leyen, a fixture in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinets for nearly 14 years, was Germany's defence minister from late 2013 until her unexpected nomination in July to lead the European Union's executive commission.

Her tenure as defence chief drew mixed reviews, and a parliamentary inquiry has been looking into questions about whether proper procedures were followed in the expensive appointment of outside experts at the ministry.

Von der Leyen conceded that there were breaches of the rules on awarding contracts, but insisted that bringing in outside experts was necessary. She said that work on digitizing the military, in particular, "couldn't be done without help from outside," news agency dpa reported. She added that the defence ministry has always used support and advice, and will need to in the future as well.

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