Herman Van Rompuy

Herman Van Rompuy

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Herman Achille Van Rompuy (ˈɦɛɾmɑn vɑn ˈɾɔmpœy; born 31 October 1947) is the first long-term and full-time President
President of the European Council
The President of the European Council is a principal representative of the European Union on the world stage, and the person presiding over and driving forward the work of the European Council...

 of the European Council
European Council
The European Council is an institution of the European Union. It comprises the heads of state or government of the EU member states, along with the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, currently Herman Van Rompuy...

 (until the Treaty of Lisbon, the position had rotated among the prime ministers of the member states for six months each, since then they choose a President of their meetings for a 2½ year period, renewable once). A Belgian
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 politician of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party, Van Rompuy served as the 49th prime minister of Belgium from 30 December 2008 until his predecessor succeeded him on 25 November 2009. He has the Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold.

On 19 November 2009 Van Rompuy was elected by the members of the European Council
European Council
The European Council is an institution of the European Union. It comprises the heads of state or government of the EU member states, along with the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, currently Herman Van Rompuy...

 as the first full time President of the European Council under the Treaty of Lisbon
Treaty of Lisbon
The Treaty of Lisbon of 1668 was a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain, concluded at Lisbon on 13 February 1668, through the mediation of England, in which Spain recognized the sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza....

. He was appointed to chair the institution for the period starting from 1 December 2009 until 31 May 2012, though he only took up his position officially on the first of January 2010.

Early life


Born in Etterbeek, Brussels to Dr (later Professor) Vic Van Rompuy and Germaine Geens, he attended Sint-Jan Berchmanscollege in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 (until 1965), where Ancient Greek and Latin were his main subjects. During his early teens, he was an avid rock and roll fan, especially of US singer Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

.
Later he studied at the and received a bachelor's degree in philosophy (1968) and a master's degree in applied economics (1971). He worked at the Belgian central bank from 1972 to 1975.

From 1980 to 1987 he was a lecturer at the Handelshogeschool Antwerpen (now Lessius University College); from 1982 he also was a lecturer at the Vlaamse Economische Hogeschool Brussel (VLEKHO now Hogeschool Universiteit Brussel).

Family


Van Rompuy is married to Geertrui Windels with whom he has four children: Peter (born 1980), Laura (born 1981), Elke (born 1983) and Thomas (born 1986). His eldest son, Peter, is active in the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party and stood as a candidate for the Belgian regional elections of 2009
Belgian regional elections, 2009
Regional elections were held in Belgium on 7 June 2009 to choose representatives in the regional councils of Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking Community of Belgium...

.

His younger brother, Eric Van Rompuy
Eric Van Rompuy
Eric Karel Paul Van Rompuy is a Flemish politician.-Biography:He is the son of the later Prof. em. dr. Vic Van Rompuy and brother of Herman Van Rompuy and Christine Van Rompuy....

, is also a politician in the CD&V and was a minister in the Flemish Government
Flemish government
The Flemish Government is the executive branch of the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region. It consists of up to a maximum of eleven ministers, chosen by the Flemish Parliament...

 from 1995 to 1999. His sister, Tine Van Rompuy
Tine Van Rompuy
Christine Francine Wilhelmina Van Rompuy is a Belgian nurse, politician and syndicalist, member of the Workers Party of Belgium, a small leftist party in Belgium. Van Rompuy is the sister of Herman Van Rompuy, EU's first full-time president of the European Council, and the Flemish politician Eric...

, is a member of the Workers Party of Belgium
Workers Party of Belgium
The Workers' Party of Belgium is a Marxist political party in Belgium. It is one of the few parties that operates as a single Belgian party...

. He has another sister, Anita Van Rompuy, who is not politically active. His father, Vic Van Rompuy, was an economics professor.

Early career


Van Rompuy was the chairman of the national Christian People's Party's (CVP) youth council (1973–1977). From 1975 to 1980 he worked in the ministerial cabinets of and . In 1978 he was elected a member of the national CVP's bureau (1978–present). He first was elected to the Belgian Senate
Belgian Senate
The Belgian Senate is one of the two chambers of the bicameral Federal Parliament of Belgium, the other being the Chamber of Representatives. It is considered to be the "upper house" of the Federal Parliament.-History and future:...

 in 1988 and served until 1995. In 1988 he shortly served as Secretary of State for Finance and for Small and Medium Enterprises before becoming the national chairman of the CVP (1988–1993).

Belgian Minister of Budget (1993–1999)


Van Rompuy was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget from September 1993 to July 1999 in the two governments led by Jean-Luc Dehaene
Jean-Luc Dehaene
-Early life and political career:He was born in Montpellier, France, when his parents were fleeing German troops. He got into politics through the Algemeen Christelijk Werknemersverbond , a trade union which was closely linked to the Christelijke Volkspartij .In 1981, he became Minister of Social...

. As budget minister, together with finance minister Philippe Maystadt
Philippe Maystadt
Philippe M.P.J. Maystadt is a Belgian politician who served as Minister for Economic Affairs, Minister of Finance, and Deputy Prime Minister. He is the current President of the European Investment Bank . He was appointed to this office on 1 January 2000.Philippe Maystadt was born in Verviers in...

, he helped drive down Belgium’s debt from a peak of 135% of gross domestic product
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 (GDP) in 1993. It fell to below 100% of GDP in 2003.

Member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives (1995–2009)


He was elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in the 1995 general election
Belgian general election, 1995
The 21 May 1995 Belgian general elections was a Belgian election for the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and Belgian Senate. The Christian People's Party won the elections, and Jean-Luc Dehaene continued as Prime Minister.-Senate:...

, but as he remained a minister, he was barred from taking the seat while holding that office. After his party's defeat in the 1999 Belgian general election
Belgian general election, 1999
The June 13, 1999 Belgian general elections was a Belgian election for the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and Belgian Senate. The federal general elections were held on the same day as the European elections and the regional elections. The Flemish Liberals and Democrats won the elections.The...

, he became a member of the Chamber of Representatives. He was re-elected in 2003 and 2007
Belgian general election, 2007
The 2007 Belgian general election took place on Sunday 10 June 2007. Voters went to the polls in order to elect new members for the Chamber of Representatives and Senate.Eligible voters were Belgian citizens 18 years and older...

. In 2004, he was designated Minister of State
Minister of State (Belgium)
The Minister of State is an honorary title in Belgium. It is formally granted by the Belgian monarch, but on the initiative of the Belgian federal government. It is given on a personal basis, for life rather than for a specified period. The title is granted for exceptional merits, generally to...

.

Position on Turkey joining the European Union



In 2004, he stated "An enlargement [of the EU] with Turkey is not in any way comparable with previous enlargement waves. Turkey is not Europe and will never be Europe." He continued "But it's a matter of fact that the universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also the fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey."

On December 23, 2010, Van Rompuy said "Turkish reform efforts have delivered impressive results." He continued "Turkey plays an ever more active role in its neighbourhood. Turkey is also a full-standing member of the G-20, just like five EU countries and the EU itself. In my view, even before an outcome of the negotiations, the European Union should develop a close partnership with the Turkish Republic."

President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives (2007–2008)



After eight years in opposition, CD&V (formerly known as CVP) returned to government. On 12 July 2007, was elected as the President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, succeeding Herman De Croo
Herman De Croo
Herman Francies Joseph De Croo is a Belgian liberal politician. He is a member of the Open VLD. He is the father of current Open VLD chairman Alexander De Croo....

.

Prime Minister of Belgium


On 28 December 2008, following the 2007–2008 Belgian political crisis
2007–2008 Belgian political crisis
The 2007–2011 Belgian political crisis is an enduring period of tense communal relations and political instability in Belgium rooted in the differing opinions on state reform, and in the continued existence of the controversial electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde...

, was asked by King Albert II
Albert II of Belgium
Albert II is the current reigning King of the Belgians, a constitutional monarch. He is a member of the royal house "of Belgium"; formerly this house was named Saxe-Coburg-Gotha...

 to form a new government after he was reluctant to take up the role of prime minister. He was sworn in as Belgian prime minister on 30 December 2008.

Taxes


On 13 October 2009 Bloomberg reported that the government of would seek to "Tax Banks, Nuclear Power to Tame Deficit".

Quote on financial recovery


“We are in the early stages of a recovery and at this time it is important not to weaken burgeoning confidence and to lay the foundations of a sustainable recovery,” said in a speech to parliament in Brussels. “Most important is to keep the direction. That will also provide stability and support.” .

Policy on government debt


On 13 October Bloomberg reported the following about Government Debt Policy: "Belgium will trim its budget deficit to 5.3% of gross domestic product in 2011 from almost 5.7% both this year and next, according to a slide presentation handed out by State Secretary for the Budget . told Parliament earlier today that the deficit would widen to 5.4% of GDP this year. Belgium’s deficit will be little changed next year as the shortfall at the level of regional governments and municipalities will widen to 1.5% of GDP from 0.7%, offsetting efforts by the federal government to trim its deficit. Government debt will start exceeding one year’s worth of national output as of 2010, according to European Commission forecasts. Belgium had trimmed debt to as little as 84% of GDP in 2007, before bailouts of Fortis, Dexia SA, KBC Group NV and mutual insurer Ethias Group increased the nation’s borrowing costs and inflated the debt ratio to 89.6% at the end of last year."

Negotiations and dispute with GDF Suez


On 22 October 2009 Reuters reported that the government had signed a commitment with GDF Suez for nuclear power fees to Belgium. The outstanding dispute with GDF concerns the €250 million fee that Belgium is attempting to charge GDF for 2009 as part of its "Renewable Energy Fund" as stated in the article: "Belgium has also charged nuclear producers a total of 250 million euros for 2008 and the same for 2009, as well as 250 million euros this year payable to a renewable energy fund. These fees remain in dispute. The producers are challenging the 2008 payment in Belgium's constitutional court. A spokesman for said the government would pass a law to enforce the 500 million euro charge for this year, adding that this could also be contested by GDF Suez."

President of the European Council


At a meeting in the Castle of the Valley of the Duchess
Castle of the Valley of the Duchess
The Castle of Val-Duchesse is a former priory situated in the municipality of Auderghem in the Brussels Capital Region of Belgium. The castle is owned by the Belgian Royal Trust....

 for a meeting held by Bilderberg group
Bilderberg Group
The Bilderberg Group, Bilderberg conference, or Bilderberg Club is an annual, unofficial, invitation-only conference of approximately 120 to 140 guests from North America and Western Europe, most of whom are people of influence. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from...

 on 12 November 2009, Van Rompuy made a speech about his vision of the European governance.

On 19 November 2009, Van Rompuy was chosen unanimously by the European Council, at an informal meeting in Brussels, to be the first full-time President of the European Council
President of the European Council
The President of the European Council is a principal representative of the European Union on the world stage, and the person presiding over and driving forward the work of the European Council...

; for the period of 1 December 2009 (the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon
Treaty of Lisbon
The Treaty of Lisbon of 1668 was a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain, concluded at Lisbon on 13 February 1668, through the mediation of England, in which Spain recognized the sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza....

) until 31 May 2012. He took up his position officially on 1 January 2010.

Gordon Brown also praised Van Rompuy as "a consensus-builder" who had "brought a period of political stability to his country after months of uncertainty". This opinion is shared by others; he has been described as the painstaking builder of impossible compromises (l'horloger des compromis impossibles) A statement made by Van Rompuy at a news conference after his selection illustrates his approach: He has also descrided his role of chairing a body composed of 27 heads of state or government (and finding consensus among them) as being "neither a spectator, nor a dictator, but a facilitator"

In a November 2009 press conference, Van Rompuy related to global governance
Global governance
Global governance or world governance is the political interaction of transnational actors aimed at solving problems that affect more than one state or region when there is no power of enforcing compliance. The modern question of world governance exists in the context of globalization...

 by stating: "2009 is also the first year of global governance with the establishment of the G20 in the middle of a financial crisis; the climate conference in Copenhagen is another step towards the global management of our planet." Van Rompuy referred to the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009.

In or just before the first months of his presidency Van Rompuy visited all EU member states, he also organised an informal meeting of the heads of state of the EU. The meeting took place on 11 February 2010 in the Solvay Library
Leopold Park
Parc Léopold or Leopoldspark is a public park located within the Leopold Quarter of Brussels, adjacent to the Paul-Henri Spaak building, the seat of the European Parliament....

 (Brussels), topics to be discussed were the future direction of the economic policies of the EU, the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference
2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference
The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, was held at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 7 December and 18 December. The conference included the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate...

 and the then recent earthquake in Haiti
2010 Haiti earthquake
The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicentre near the town of Léogâne, approximately west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks...

.

In fact, the meeting was in part taken over by the growing sovereign debt crisis (at that time, Greece), which was to become the hall mark of Van Rompuy's first two years as President. With EU member states holding divergent positions on this issue, he had to find compromises, not least between France and Germany, at subsequent European Council meetings and summits of Eurozone heads of state or government leading to the establishment of the three-year European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM)and the European Financial Stability Facility
European Financial Stability Facility
The European Financial Stability Facility is a special purpose vehicle financed by members of the eurozone to combat the European sovereign debt crisis. It was agreed by the 27 member states of the European Union on 9 May 2010, aiming at preserving financial stability in Europe by providing...

 (EFSF) in May 2010 to provide loans to Greece (and later Ireland and Portugal) to help stabilise their borrowing costs, but subject to strict conditions.

The European Council also tasked him with chairing a task force on economic governance, composed of personal representatives (mostly ministers of finance) of the heads of government, which reported ahead of schedule to the October 2010 European Council. Its report, which proposed stronger macro-economic co-ordination within the EU in general and the Eurozone in particular and also a tightening of the Stability and Growth Pact was endorsed by the European Council. The latter also charged him with preparing, by December 2010, a proposal for a limited change to the Treaty required to enable a more permanent financial stability mechanism. His draft - for an addition to Article 136 TFEU, pertaining to the Eurozone - was endorsed by the European Council at its December 2010 meeting.

His second year in office, 2011, was also marked by a deterioration of Greek debt crisis, leading to Van Rompuy calling an extraordinary meeting of the Eurozone heads of state or government in July to adopt a first package of further measures (notably longer term loans at lower interest rates, private sector debt-writedown, further fiscal consolidation in Greece) and again in October (in conjunction with full European Council meetings) to contain contagion from Greece to other countries (through bank recapitalisation across Europe and by leveraging the firepower of the EFSF to about €1 trillion).

His first two years were also marked by his role in coordinating European positions on the world stage at G8 and G20 summits and bilateral summits, such as the tense 5 October 2010 EU-China summit. He called a special European Council at short notice in early 2011 on the emerging Libya crisis, which, in agreeing conditions for military intervention, made it impossible for Germany to oppose such intervention once the conditions were fulfilled.

President's cabinet


Although the European Council is, under the terms of the Lisbon treaty, a separate institution of the EU, it does not have its own administration. The administrative support for both the European Council and its president is provided by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union
The General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, better known as Council Secretariat, assists the Council of the European Union, the Council Presidency, European Council and the President of the European Council. The General Secretariat is currently headed by Secretary-General Uwe...

. The president does have, however, his own private office (cabinet) of close advisers. Van Rompuy chose as his chief of staff (chef de cabinet) Baron Frans van Daele, formerly Belgian ambassador to, variously, the USA, the UN, the EU and NATO and chief of staff of several Belgian foreign ministers. Also in his team are the former UK Labour MEP Richard Corbett
Richard Corbett
Richard Corbett was a Member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party for Yorkshire and the Humber, serving between 1996 and 2009...

, former Hungarian Ambassador to NATO Zoltan Martinusz, former head of the EU's economic & financial committee Odile Renaud-Basso, and Van Rompuy's long standing press officer Dirk De Backer.

Relationship with President Barroso


President Van Rompuy (chairing the strategic body of the EU bringing together the presidents or prime ministers of the member states with the right to set EU priorities) has an uneasy relationship with EC President Barroso, head of the EU's day-to-day executive which also has the right to initiate legislative and budgetary proposals. The latter has been keen to ensure that President Van Rompuy does not trespass on the European Council's prerogatives, but the European Council has often charged Van Rompuy, rather than Barroso, with various tasks. Both represent the EU externally at bilateral or multilateral (G8 or G20) summits at the level of heads of state. There have been calls for the position of president of the European Council and president of the European Commission to be merged in due course.

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