Why Van Rompuy Might Be a Wise Choice After All

The Belgian knows how to foster consensus.

International media are disappointed Europe picked Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy as its first “president”. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both call him a step back for the EU.

Van Rompuy won out over the likes of Tony Blair because he is a conservative and a patient negotiator. Germany, France and especially Blair’s own United Kingdom don’t care for a Brussels that dictates (foreign) policy to them. An assertive president is the last thing they want.

Van Rompuy is also known to oppose Turkey’s entry into the union, a position France and Germany share.

The permanent chairman of the European Council (which is what the “presidency” entails) must be able to satisfy smaller member states as well. Someone higher-profile than Van Rompuy, like Blair, would not have. If only because so many Europeans associate him with the Iraq War they opposed.

Anita Kirpalani has a better take in Newsweek, describing Van Rompuy as a “cautious choice” but also a man who can “foster consensus”.

What looks like timidity might just lead to a stronger Europe after all.