Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Challenges for the EU in 2011

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 13th January, 2011

When former Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy was chosen as President of the European Council, there was much derision in the puerile British Press: crude jokes about ‘Rumpy-Pumpy’ and fatuous remarks about how he wouldn’t even make the list of 10 Famous Belgians. But in fact, he was in many ways the ideal choice, having dealt with the Belgian budget when it was drowning in debt and having been used to managing a government of five difficult Coalition partners. It’s not his fault that he looks like a compassionate undertaker, as I can confirm, having attended the presentation he gave at a splendid event at Europe House in Smith Square this lunchtime. But what a cool cookie he is. It would have been a disaster if a ‘star’ such as the ghastly Tony Blair had got the job, as he would inevitably have taken initiatives, which is not the Council President’s role. He chairs the (seemingly ever frequent) meetings of Heads of State and Heads of Government of the 27 member states and soothes them into reaching a compromise which can then be put into practuce. Herman van Rompuy clearly gets on well with most of the top men and women he has to deal with, and indeed told us that he had had a very fruitful encounter with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street before coming on to Europe House. The year ahead holds many challenges on the economic front, though the eurozone goes relatively confidently forward, whatever its critics say, while on the external front, strengthening the partnership with (and I hope eventual membership of) Turkey remains a rop priority.

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