Herman Van Rompuy the unassuming Prime Minister of Belgium is now tipped to become arguably the most powerful person in the European Union.
The bookmakers have him leading the race for the top job and ahead of tonight’s ballot in which the 27 leaders will choose their president it’s Van Rompuy who is the surprise favourite. Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are reported to have decided on their choice. Could it be the conservative leader of Belgium? He has been in power less than a year but has proved a steady hand. He is low profile and will not outshine the leaders of the member states. “Our goal is not to be a star in Europe as our goal for Belgium during our EU presidency, our aim is to have a stronger Europe at the end of our term,” he explained. Gordon Brown, Britain’s Prime Minister is understood to oppose Van Rompuy who supports the introduction of EU taxes. So perhaps then the Belgian leader – once described as pragmatic rather than charismatic; and is known for his consensus building skills – will miss out. The compromise candidate could be the former Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga dubbed the dark horse of the race by the bookmakers. She says if the president was elected by the people then she would have a pretty good chance. Several female MEPs gathered with protesters outside the European council in Brussels yesterday to call for one of the recently created senior posts of president or foreign affairs chief to go to a woman. They say that equality for men and women is written into EU law but they claim it is very rarely seen in reality.