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Van Rompuy Saves the Day

This post is a brief summary of Eurocomment’s Briefing Note vol. 7.6.

Herman Van Rompuy’s first European Council as President turned out to be Van Rompuy’s Council. This was in some respects rather surprising, because the Greek crisis hijacked the meeting and reduced the time available for discussion of the Council’s original agenda to little more than two hours. It was precisely the crisis that made both the meeting and the man however. When Angela Merkel rejected the eurogroup finance ministers’ draft declaration barely fifteen hours before the Council was due to begin, Van Rompuy was faced with the prospect of a disaster, both in the Council chamber and on the markets. He therefore mounted a well camouflaged rescue operation. The schedule was altered- ostensibly because of snow in Brussels- and he and his team set about producing a finely crafted statement, which satisfied Mrs Merkel’s political and constitutional reservations, but at the same time offered the Greek prime minister a glimmer of hope. The statement- which Merkel, Papandreou and Sarkozy accepted without amendment on the following morning- was much more than a mere stop-gap solution however, since It redefined the terms of the debate about what could or could not be done and added fresh momentum to the European Council’s increasingly intense discussion about economic government in Europe. Above all, it demonstrated that Van Rompuy was in charge. In a remarkable display of leadership which was totally devoid of charisma, he listened before he acted and led because he had listened. It was not a bad start for somebody who in his own words is ‘still learning’.

To read more of this briefing, please click on this link.

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