So, the Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy has been appointed as the first ever President of the European Union. If he didn’t have a funny and memorable name, most people would never have heard of him. In the last few days he has been tipped for the top job by some commentators, but dismissed as a ‘nobody’ by others. How, they asked, can the EU be led by someone nobody had ever heard of? And… from Belgium?!
Well, this raises an interesting question. Do we want a European President who has star quality or one who can do the job?
Running Belgium must make running some other countries look like a kiddies tea party. Belgium is small, complicated, has diverse communities with differing histories and traditions, has two official languages – and a reputation for being boring (the country you go through to get to somewhere else… but stay there and you’ll change your mind).
Yet, if you can hold that lot together and make a good fist out of it without raising the hackles of every other country, maybe you’re the best hope for bringing the squabbling children of Europe together more effectively. This might just turn out to be a stroke of genius – appointing a bloke who doesn’t seem to worry about his ‘legacy’, but will just get on with the job in his usual quiet way.
I hadn’t heard of Baroness Ashton either – and she’s got the Foreign Policy brief. Who had bets on that one?