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Van Rompuy, from obscurity to power play

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Van Rompuy, from obscurity to power play

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Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Fleming Herman Van Rompuy gained substantial favour as a candidate for the new job of full-time European Union President relatively late in the game. It was his consensus-building skill holding a challenging coalition together at home which grabbed attention.

Pragmatic rather than charismatic was how at least one analyst described him. He is a Jesuit-educated former economics professor. He earned praise for getting opposing language communities who were tearing at the very fabric of Belgium to sit down with each other. Discretion won him point, but critics said his cool exterior concealed a degree of cynicism. He is a steadfast devotee of NATO and the US. He enjoys France and Germany’s backing, which does not endear him to all the other EU members. Diplomats have said what may be most in Van Rompuy’s favour is that so few people have heard of him; he has less experience of conflicts which can come back to haunt a candidate.