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Former President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy

European Council

Herman Van Rompuy was the first full-time President of the European Council. He was elected for the first time in November 2009, then re-elected for a second term from June 2012 to November 2014. He was replaced by Donald Tusk on 1 December 2014. 

Personal reflections on the role of President of the European Council

At the conference 'Dove va l'Europa - The State of the Union', Herman Van Rompuy shared his reflections on his time in office as President of the European Council:

"For me, the office was just as new as for everybody. I was elected on 19 November 2009. I had prepared a statement for the press in which I gave an idea. Still worth quoting.

Back then I said, "Every country should emerge victorious from negotiations. (..) As President of the European Council, I will listen carefully to everyone and I will make sure that our deliberations turn into results for everyone."

I also said, "There has been much debate about the profile of the future president but only one profile is possible and it is one of dialogue, unity and action."

Building trust is in my view perhaps the most important task of a European Council President. 

Herman Van Rompuy

Building trust among leaders, among institutions, among countries: it is basis for political decision-making.

Especially when decisions are difficult and when they have to be taken by consensus, as normally is the case in the European Council. 

How does one build trust? By meeting people, by listening to people, by taking their views into account.

For instance, I've made a point throughout my mandate of visiting all members of the European Council in their own capital, in principle once per year. Speaking to presidents and prime ministers in their own working environment gives you a much better idea of what really drives them.

(…) All such efforts to build trust paid off at moments of need, at moments of crisis."

These reflections are extracted from the following speech:

In his farewell speech to the members of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy also said:

Together we have shown the implausible: that a Union with 28 countries can work.

Herman Van Rompuy

"(…) I have tried to act in the name of the European interest, which is not abstract. It is more than the sum of 28 national interests, but it also is this sum. 

Each time we have to agree, with 28. Not always 'in one go', and sometimes with a bit of pulling and shoving." 

Herman Van Rompuy on:

About Herman Van Rompuy 

He was the Prime Minister of Belgium when he was first elected as President. A former economist at the National Bank of Belgium, he began his political career in 1973 as national Vice-President of his party's youth council. 

Herman Van Rompuy holds a bachelor's degree in Philosophy and a master's degree in applied economics from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven).