Let's talk about Europe

A unhappy reappointment?

Herman Van Rompuy, former Belgian PM (2008 – 2009) and current European Council permanent president since 2009, recently re-elected

Herman Van Rompuy was recently reappointed as European Council permanent president by the EU-27 heads of State and government for a new two-year-and-half-mandate. His positions were extended to the Eurozone in which he’ll chair the summits.

Nobody is surprised by this reappointment and everybody does not care of this, such an announcement was expected. The former Belgian PM is so consensual than his re-election was not a problem especially as the duration of his mandate is so short that he did not have the time to consolidate and set up the function yet.

Euro-romantics and other federalists (which I belong) will be concerned the mandate extension of a man, known for his silences, his transparency (in a pejorative meaning) and his absence of any initiative. It will be also worried by a man completely been under the “Merkozy” (that is to say, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy) heel while he should be the incarnation of Europe.

Cartoon made by Pierre Kroll for Le Soir, a Belgian daily

I am maybe going to astonish some of you but the Van Rompuy reappointment is far to be a bad news for the European integration insofar as the former Belgian head of government is seeing himself as a facilitator, a justice of peace rather than someone wanting to question the EU-27 head of State and government leadership. The European Council permanent presidency has just been created and it is essential to build it and define the contents and the boundaries. Herman Van Rompuy is clearly aware of this and is looking for consensuses, where it is becoming more and more complicated to create, especially at 27 (as the recent European agreement showed)

The re-election of Van Rompuy is surely not the best news but it is far to be an “unhappy reappointment” as Les Jeunes Européens France considered on their Facebook page. Maybe, everybody is expecting too much of a position which is still symbolic. Nonetheless, Van Rompuy has a challenge: building and consolidating his presidency and introducing himself as a guardian of the European unity, giving a direction to the whole EU-27, which he explained very well in the front of the College of Europe’s students in Bruges (Belgium), in 2010. Such a position allows to Van Rompuy to appear as a manager of a team than a strong personality, which would have been prestigious but more problematic inside the EU-27.

This is the challenge of Van Rompuy: building the position to make it useful within the EU-27 even if it means to be transparent. Nonetheless, the future evolutions of the European Union may be an opportunity for the current European Council president to be more present and useful because of the crisis and the current situation of Greece, without annoying the EU member States… for the moment.