Belgians are juggling pride and pragmatics as their prime minister’s chances of becoming European President increase.
In the centre of Brussels, passers-by interviewed by Euronews said: “I think it would be a bad deal for Belgium because he has shown what he’s capable of in government and that he’s indispensable in keeping the peace between the different communities.”
“It would be a pity if Van Rompuy became EU President. It would mean political instability in Belgium. A good thing for Europe a bad thing for Belgium!”
“He’s a peacemaker. He’s not one for managing war, he tries to make everybody get along, which is not a bad thing.”
A firm favourite for the new post of European Union president being created under the bloc’s Lisbon treaty, Herman Van Rompuy has been Belgium’s prime minister for less than a year, holding together an uneasy coalition. That sort of skill in the centre-right 62-year-old makes him a true blue ribbon candidate in the eyes of a majority of the EU’s leaders.
Veteran Belgian and European politician Louis Michel rejected any notion that his country would begrudge Europe Van Rompuy: “A loss? Look, when a Belgian becomes the first President of the European Council it is not a loss for Belgium. It’s really rather good.”
Although support for current British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Labour, for the other new Lisbon Treaty post of EU foreign policy chief has grown substantial, Miliband says he is not available.
If he reconfirms that, Italy’s Massimo d’Alema would stand a better chance. But he is a former communist, and that, in the EU’s first powerful foreign representative, is something to which the EU member states that suffered under communism say they object.