Watch back: Charles Michel replaces Donald Tusk as EU Council President

Watch back: Charles Michel replaces Donald Tusk as EU Council President
Copyright REUTERS/Yves Herman
By John Paul GingPhilip Sime
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Donald Tusk is replaced as President of the European Council by former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.


It's all change at the top of the EU this weekend.

Donald Tusk's five years as Head of the European Council are ending as he's replaced by the former Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel.

The outgoing leader exchanged a handshake and a hug with the new Council President on Friday before the two gave speeches, exchanging a golden bell used to start meetings.

"It is a great responsibility and a great honour," Michel said. He joked that he hoped he received as much applause as Tusk had at the end of his own leadership.


The other major change will see Jean Claude Juncker replaced by Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission. She managed to get her commission team approved by the European Parliament earlier this week.

Charles Michel’s rise has been meteoric, succeeding the veteran Tusk – 57 when he became President – a few weeks short of his 44th birthday.

Michel has said he’s aware of what he considers the ‘huge responsibility’ of his new position but regards the challenges the EU faces to also represent opportunities.

"Your passion for Europe has been a driving force and your fitness skills are impressive too," Michel said as he commended Tusk.

"We cannot sit on our hands...the EU must be at the table," Michel said, adding that he planned to do more to ensure common defence and to reinforce a positive vision for the EU's future.

But he faces the formidable task of attempting to create unity around the table where the EU's most powerful men and woman gather to thrash out the issues of the day.

It's a difficult time for the EU, with the shadow of Brexit on the horizon, as well as existing crises involving migration and climate change.

Michel already possesses a reputation as a consensus builder, having served as Prime Minister of his politically-divided home nation Belgium for four years from 2014 during a particularly turbulent period.

His government eventually collapsed when his coalition partners withdrew following disagreements over the handling of the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration, an issue which promises to feature in his new role.

Politics is in his blood; he’s the eldest son of former European Commissioner, Louis Michel. Charles became a councillor at the age of 18 and a regional government minister at 25.

When he attained the premiership after the 2014 election, he was Belgium’s youngest Prime Minister in almost 200 years

The biggest test of Charles Michel's consensus-building skills now awaits.

Journalist • John Paul Ging

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