Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council has finally spoken out about the current state of Belgian Politics calling the situation “pathetic” and “pitiful” in a rare comment on what has been his prime concern not more than a year and a half ago.
When Van Rompuy had taken the reins of Europe, as it were, I had written a news piece directly after the press conference and events that led to his and Catherine Ashton’s surprise appointment.
I remember President Jose Manuel Barroso was holding a Rubic’s cube and the Swedish Prime Minister was chuffed to be able to be a part of this historic step into the future playing out under his Presidency.
The column then could not help but see the obvious impasse that Belgium was going to face following Herman Van Rompuy’s new appointment (I had just referenced the European Project):
“Belgian Prime Minister Herman Von Rompuy, is the salvager of the equally unbalanced ‘Belgian project’ who came in as a final sigh of relief earlier this year to Belgian’s salvation seeing as the government had been without one for 200 days. Unfortunately for Belgium he cannot hold a national office at the same time as being President.
President Van Rompuy takes up the position 1 December and seemed more than keen after being voted in by consensus from the 27 heads of state of Europe in what was one of the shortest council meetings in the past years.
“Even though it was more than difficult to have to leave the running of my country, I accepted the position and I was thankful for the honor that was bestowed on me. I look at this as a compliment to Belgium which has dedicated itself constantly to the construction of Europe. I didn’t ask for this position and I didn’t lobby for it in away but as of tonight I will take it on with conviction, I take it on with enthusiasm,” Van Rompuy said.”
Today Belgian daily Le Soir quotes him as finding the political impasse ‘pathetic’ and yet at the same time the governance and economy rests more than safe.
In the same article the current ‘stand-in’ Prime Minister Yves Leterme who had previouly quit twice is quoted as saying that coallition building will take up to another three months.
On April 9 Belgium marked 300 days without government. Eleven days before this it had entered into the Guiness World Book of Records for the longest any country has been without a functioning government.
On that same night of November 9, 2009 when President Van Rompuy’s position had been announced Sofia Cotsoglou of Radio Contact had told me that she was as a result worried, as it would be difficult again to find a suitable Prime Minister for Belgium, this small country which has a three part federation, three official languages, and whose strong convictions whether be it from the Flemish or the Wallons or the Brusselites had left them in a powerless impasse for a historic period of non-governance.
I have often thought of that night as a direct result of what is still happening today, an implacable split country still trying to find it’s key negotiator as one such person went on to serve Europe.
Last week I asked for an interview with Herman Van Rompuy to discuss this new Guiness Book of World Records feat but the timing was not right (he was visiting Athens).
Hoping to talk to him on this, Europe and diplomacy soonest.
NOTE: On the same night – European Institution and European Council employees were conversely
very happy as this was a step forward for the Lisbon Treaty and Europe, Jaana Pohjanmaki, An employee of the European Council from Finland, speaking in a personal capacity, said that “we have waited so long for this; it really is a very big night for Europe. It will mean coherence, progress and a great change; the Civil servants of Europe have been waiting a long time for this and will be very happy!”
Coherence? Progress? Great change?
We will ask the President when we have our chance to see him.