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Charles Michel, the consensus builder

Charles Michel, the consensus builder
By Philip Sime
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The Belgian politician takes over from Tusk at the top table. We look at his path to power, and the skills he could bring to the role of EU Council president.


New job. Same country.

Charles Michel today walks into his new life as President of a major Brussels landmark, the European Council.

"I am conscious of this huge responsibility and of course I will do my best to fulfil this task," Michel explained to reporters ahead of the official handover ceremony.

His task? Ensuring unity around the table where the EU's most powerful men and woman gather to thrash out the issues of the day.

Lucky perhaps, then, that he has a reputation as a consensus builder having served as Prime Minister of politically divided Belgium.

For Charles Michel politics is in the blood. The eldest son of a former European Commissioner, he became a councillor at the age of 18, and a regional government minister at 25.

In 2014, his rise to the top of Belgian politics was complete, becoming the country's youngest Prime Minister in almost 200 years

However, his was a premiership marked by rows over migration, an issue which toppled his coalition government in December 2018. The country being run by a caretaker government since this date, and inconclusive elections in May still failing to find a solution.

But now Michel, leaves behind domestic troubles. And exactly ten years to the day since Herman Van Rompuy became the first Belgian to sit at the top table of Brussels, Charles Michel becomes the second.

For Charles Michel, the biggest test of his consensus building skills now awaits.

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