Saturday 22 May 2010

Improving EU economic governance: Impressive Herman Van Rompuy

Winston Churchill is said to have quipped that the Labour leader Clement Attlee was a man who had much to be modest about.

At (s)election time British tabloids, which pray at the shrine of John Bull, were more derisory in their outpourings about the new President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, often misleadingly labeled as the “EU President”. This funny little foreigner came from, of all places, Belgium. The latest national tragedy is that Van Rompuy has “failed” to send Nigel Farage (a member of the European Parliament, not the European Council) a get well card.

I have to admit a conflict of interest of potentially damaging proportions: I have not sent Farage a get well card, either, although I wish to see him restored to full physical, mental and moral health.

Farage, this paragon of British political culture, has described Van Rompuy as a man with "all the charisma of a damp rag" and told that he has the "appearance of a low-grade bank clerk".

I have one suggestion to everyone who has been fed the story of European integration and cooperation in the same vein as the collective memory of the Blitz in England.

See for yourself.

The task force meeting on EU economic governance was preceded by a cacophony of conflicting messages from national politicians on crisis resolution and better budget discipline. The pressures to succeed are great, but the treaties severely limit the options for improvement. This was the exploratory, first task force meeting. Trying to achieve some sort of purpose and order into a collection of representatives from 27 member states must be a superhuman task.

After the task force meeting, the chairman Herman Van Rompuy held a press conference. True, he had a prepared script and he fielded only four questions, but I found his clarity and quiet determination impressive. (The recorded video clip does not contain the questions and answers, but Van Rompuy’s replies in English and French were both precise and measured.)

Let this be my get well card to English tabloids.

Ralf Grahn

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