Meet the President of Europe
Paul Belien - 2009-11-20
Herman Van Rompuy. Get used to the name. He is the first President of the European Union, which with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon by all the 27 EU member states in early November was transformed into a genuine United States of Europe.
The President of Europe has not been elected; he was appointed in a secret meeting of the heads of government of the 27 EU member states. They chose one of their own. Herman Van Rompuy was the Prime Minister of Belgium. I knew him when he was just setting out, reluctantly, on his political career.
To understand Herman, one must know something about Belgium, a tiny country in Western Europe, and the prototype of the EU. Belgians do not exist as a nation. Belgium is an artificial state, constructed by the international powers in 1830 as a political compromise and experiment. The country consists of 6 million Dutch, living in Flanders, the northern half of the country, and 4 million French, living in Wallonia, the southern half. The Belgian Dutch, called Flemings, would have preferred to stay part of the Netherlands, as they were until 1830, while the Belgian French, called Walloons, would have preferred to join France. Instead, they were forced to live together in one state.