Made in the EU

Måndag, 19. April 2010     1 kommentti(a)
Aaretti Siitonen

"In a nearby ditch

Toads mating passionately

Inaugurate spring"

This excerpt is not a new opening of the Institute in the realm of poetry, but instead a quote from the European Council President Herman van Rompuy’s first Haiku anthology, published last week.

Van Rompuy is an enigma, little-known to the public. What drives him? He has explained his thinking to rest on balancing political realism with ethical idealism, a view inspired by the French Catholic philosopher Jaques Maritain. In short, "no realpolitik without idealpolitik". Also, he has described his own interpretation of the school of thought known as personalism to mean that human beings thrive within social units such as the family or civil society. Governments should therefore support what he has described as citizens' auto-organisations: theatres, schools, families andcommunities. His personal views, however, are not supposed to matter – at the beginning of his mandate he made it clear that he expresses the collective political views of the European Council, not those of himself. This has had the effect of impelling decision-makers to listen very carefully to what he says.

Van Rompuy represents a type of leadership that is quintessentially Made in the EU. Low-key and civilized, placing weight on quiet communication and scarce but timely interventions, van Rompuy has dazzled political commentators. He is an avid listener and an expert at fusing consensus. For example, when negotiations about how to handle the Greek crisis were about to descend into complete deadlock in February, he was able to conjure a successful joint agreement in record time. Van Rompuy was able to do this precisely because he has focused on informing himself on the opposing viewpoints, rather than espousing his own. Leadership through consensus rather than bluster and eloquence may be uninspiring, but it is effective.

A recent debate on the overlapping functions of Council President van Rompuy and Commission President Barroso has produced a predictable outcome: Eventually the positions could be fused, creating a new double-hatted actor with the additional caveat that the person should be put forward by the political parties contesting the European Parliament elections. This would give the EU a fully-fledged President, but for now we’ll go with Herman Van Rompuy. When asked what the profile of an EU President should be, his response was: "There is only one profile - one of dialogue, unity and action."

Exciting? Perhaps not, but having a sophisticated and effective consensus-maker at the Council’s helm is a good start. And I do like his poetry.

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Keskustelu (1 kommenttia)

23.4.2010, Savino

Good post!

Some commentators have remarked the paradox of having an intergovernmentalist as President of the Commission and a federalist - or so - as President of the European Council, the most national of the EU institutions.

This makes me thinking once more of the EU as a balancing act (I think Alberta Sbragia firstly popularized the term).

On HvR as being Made in the EU... Yes, but also definitely made in Belgium. And I am sure that his country misses a lot his negotiating skills, especially after yesterday -


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