Will it be Napoleon Van Rompuy, or Friday breakfast in Brussels for Blair?

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    17th November, 2009

    As I suggested in my previous post this EU presidency race is anything but over.

    Thanks to Blair Foundation blogspot for this picture, original source an Economist article on October 8th when Mr Blair WAS, reportedly, the front-runner.

    Will Blair pip them all to the post? Maybe. If his horse doesn't fall before then.

    SO WHEN HE’S NOT RIDING HORSES, RUNNING MARATHONS OR LEAPING HURDLES, what else is Tony Blair up to? Well, wearing funny hats, of course.

    Recently the Mail tried to run with the idea of Tony Blair as Napoleon. What they really meant in their anti-Europe fashion is that any EU “president” would behave as an ‘Emperor Napoleon’. And how shameful, they implied, that this next “Napoleon” could actually be British.

    How shameful it is that in the Conservative-supporting Mail’s desperation to obliterate their nemesis Tony Blair from the body politic, they fail to point out that there may be a far stronger candidate for Napoleon’s famous headgear – Herman Van Rompuy. (Pronounced Rom-poy, as in “boy“, it seems. Though his wife calls him “Rambo”!))

    The Mail is not a dependable source for the facts, especially when such facts counter their own political preferences and prejudices.

    If they really want to see what a modern-day Napoleon would look perhaps they should take a look at this  Open Europe article and what it has to tell us about Herman Van Rompuy.

    Who'll be celebrating or drowning their sorrows this weekend down at the Napoleon House?

    Soon to be Your President? (source – Open Europe)

    Excerpt on Van Rompuy, from article below:

    “Interestingly, he criticised former Belgian PM Jean-Luc Dehaene for wanting to leave Belgium in 1994 to become EU Commission President, saying: “I was furious at Dehaene when he wanted to go to the European Commission. I have sent him a letter twice, hopefully for him he has thrown it away. I did not want it and I found it a shame that he would leave us in the lurch.” (De Morgen, 11 February 2006).

    Is he about to leave Belgium in the lurch too, and fulfill a wish to become EU President?”

    There’s some interesting background on the frontrunner for the Presidency of the European Union, Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy.

    Last week, he laid out his views on how the EU’s budget should be financed in the future at a dinner of the secretive Bilderberg group, pleading for direct EU taxes.

    And as noted by the Telegraph yesterday, he was an architect of the Flemish Christian Democrats’ federalist manifesto, which calls for more EU symbols in town halls, schools and sporting events. The story is also picked up in Belgian daily De Standaard today.

    The manifesto says: “Apart from the euro, also other national symbols need to be replaced by European symbols (licence plates, identity cards, presence of more EU flags, one time EU sports events”.

    On the EU Constitution, under the headline “EU Constitution. The sooner, the better”, the manifesto reads:

    “Of course CD&V – Christian Democrat Party – would have wished for a bit more with regards to making decision making procedures in the Council easier, in the field of social and fiscal policy and in the field of foreign policy. But because politics is the art of the possible, we think the text of the Convention is a great success.”

    It notes: “we plead for the preservation of EU structural funds”, (note that the EU Court of Auditors has now for the 15th time in a row refused to sign off the EU books, due in no small part to the mismanagement of these funds.)

    Furthermore, Van Rompuy’s manifesto pleaded for a social Europe – wanting Europe to “formulate social minimum norms”, and calling for the things that ended up in the Lisbon Treaty: the removal of veto powers for Justice and Home Affairs legislation, an EU Prosecutor, and a harmonised asylum policy.

    On EU defence, the manifesto states that a “credible European defence policy requires the EU to receive the necessary competences, structures and means”, including:

    – easier decision making procedures in the Council
    – a workable procedure for enhanced cooperation
    – a credible input of means by the member states and a better coordination among national contributions
    – a common defence structure
    – EU representation in NATO

    Last but not least the manifesto notes that “taking decisions by majority needs to become to rule, also in domains which are traditionally very closely connected with national sovereignty, such as justice, internal affairs, fiscal matters, social policy and foreign policy.”

    Van Rompuy himself was an avid supporter of the European Constitution, and is reported to have been very relieved that there was no referendum in Belgium. He reportedly hated the debates in France and the Netherlands, in which he discovered a sort of demagogy to which “even the calculating citizen lends a willing ear”.

    Following the No votes to the European Constitution in 2005, Van Rompuy gave a speech to the Belgian Parliament, in which he said: “We go on with the ratification of the European Constitution in all our parliaments, but we need to admit that for the moment the project is over. However, this doesn’t mean that we cannot continue to work in a creative way in the direction which the Constitution points. I don’t mind if we break up the Constitution into smaller parts, as long as we continue to work in the same direction: in the direction of more Europe.” And so it was.

    He has also blamed the financial crisis on the “Anglosaxon model”, saying: “The Anglosaxon model of full economic freedom was celebrated. But it was there that the crisis originated, not with us”. In one of his books, he added that: “The logic of the market is often stronger than any deontological code. There is barely a stronger force in the world than the force of money. Today it mops up societies all over the world. Only Islam is resisting, although it is doing so often because of complete intolerance.” (Vernieuwing in hoofd in hart: een tegendraadse visie, 1998)

    Van Rompuy is an avid supporter of an EU superstate. In 1998 he said: “European harmonisation, which is being imposed through a unified currency, is running smoothly. Only fiscal harmonisation will still demand a lot of effort” (De Morgen, 28 maart 1998).

    And back in 1989, as President of the Flemish Christian Democrat Party, he was calling for monetary and political union in a new set of treaties. He said: “Once EMU has been realised, the realisation of political union will get an extra boost as a logical and indispensable complement of EMU”. He said: “Council, Parliament and Commission would have to speak out first in favour of the attempt to achieve a monetary and political union, if necessary in one Treaty or in two separate treaties”. (De Tijd, 5 December 1989)

    As well as being a classic EU federalist, Von Rompuy’s democratic credentials are also fit for the EU. On publication of the de Larosiere report, which called for greater financial regulation in Europe, he commented: “Let’s not discuss it too much, let’s implement it as soon as possible.”

    (As Speaker of the Belgian Parliament, Van Rompuy once cancelled a session of the Belgian Parliament, on the instigation of the PM. It sparked much commotion, especially as the locks of the plenary session room had been replaced, leading furious opposition MPs unable to get in to claim this was a ‘coup d’Etat’ and “this is Belgicistan!”(De Morgen, 3 May 2008)).

    Interestingly, he criticised former Belgian PM Jean-Luc Dehaene for wanting to leave Belgium in 1994 to become EU Commission President, saying: “I was furious at Dehaene when he wanted to go to the European Commission. I have sent him a letter twice, hopefully for him he has thrown it away. I did not want it and I found it a shame that he would leave us in the lurch.” (De Morgen, 11 February 2006).

    Is he about to leave Belgium in the lurch too, and fulfill a wish to become EU President?

    Van Rompuy seems pretty good at doing the opposite of what he has pledged. In 2007 he warned: “I know that some are contemplating having a Belgian Federal government backed only by a minority of Flemish MPs in the Belgian Parliament. A government which only has a majority in Wallonia is playing with fire. I am now speaking in the interest of the country: this is dangerous for the sake of the State” (De Morgen, 27 januari 2007). One year later he was and still is the leader of such a government.

    In fact, van Rompuy is an avid supporter of the credo: “Don’t remind politicians of earlier statements”. Last summer, he said:

    “Everybody has a history, but nobody is as often reminded about it as us. (…) You said this, but you used to say that. That’s a vicious circle, very perverse. In order to be noticed, you have to be controversial, but if you’re being noticed enough and thus get elected, you have to make compromises. And then journalists start reminding about your controversial statements in the past: you’re suffering a loss of face and you get a credibility problem.” (Humo, 3 June 2009)


    Some say that HVR (as Alastair Campbell has taken to calling him) is short in stature, Napoleon-like. This picture seems to belie that.


    Not that anyone’s height matters. It hasn’t held back M Sarozy. It’s the heights, or depths to which the new EU president wishes to take Europe that matters. But for those who ARE concerned about such height details …

    Here Rompuy does look a bit shorter than in the previous picture. Obama is about the same height as Tony Blair

    Blair and Obama, London, July 2008


    1. Today’s Mail seems (at last) to wonder if there IS something worse than Blair for the presidency. Could it be dumpy rumpy pumpy time? Have they be reading the runes and swotting up on Mr Rompuy?

    As is their wont they have to use their usual misleading language, of course:

    “Tony Blair’s dream of becoming the EU’s first president appeared to be slipping away today as it emerged Belgian’s prime minister Herman Van Rompuy is now the frontrunner for the role.”

    You will have noted the “now”. In fact Mr Rompuy has been the front-runner for some time, a lead which is now being challenged, by the earlier front-runner.

    2. The Telegraph asks if we will all soon be signing Rompuy’s new national anthem.

    3. Gavin Hewitt at the BBC says the decision could be a marathon. I wonder  – will Mr Blair stay away from the Thursday night dinner, only to turn up for breakfast on Friday?

    4. FT – lack of consensus delays decision. Excerpt:

    “According to several EU government ministers and diplomats, the hunt for a foreign policy candidate of the correct political profile and geographical origin has proved more difficult than rallying EU-wide support for Mr Van Rompuy.

    There is a small risk that Sweden will not have found an answer by the time it opens Thursday’s summit – although EU officials said Sweden’s firm goal was to strike a deal before then.

    Sources said it was possible that EU leaders would appoint Mr Van Rompuy but limit him to a single two-and-a-half-year term, rather than holding out the promise of a maximum two terms lasting five years.”

    5. The Guardian has this run-down of the candidates as well as Ladbrooke”s betting which shows Blair as being in third place behind Balkenende. So, quite different from Paddy Power’s. You pays your money …

    Guardian article above: Tony Blair remains in the frame for the post of president in the absence of any consensus on who should get the job. Photograph: KPA/Zuma/Rex Features

    Meanwhile the world watches and waits, like the rest of us.


    “The early favorite was Britain’s former prime minister, Tony Blair, but his candidacy has run into trouble. He cuts a big figure on the world stage — perhaps too big for the liking of other powerful figures such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    The talk among diplomats is that the EU president won’t be that globally powerful after all and that the role primarily will be to liaise internally among EU governments. That would leave room for a low-profile president and a more eye-catching figure in the No. 2 slot of EU foreign minister, which carries the real international oomph.”

    “And, with a sole exception, the potential candidates for the jobs are all B-list, reflecting the time-honoured instinct of national leaders to install mediocrities in Brussels who are unlikely to upstage them.The exception is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who began a discreet early run for the presidency job only to be dissed by France and Germany.”

    Udate on betting.

    And how’s the betting going at my usual place of monitoring the trend?

    At 10:40pm, Tuesday 17th November: Rompuy is still at 1:44, Blair is still at 5:00, but Juncker is now at 8:00 and Balkenende at 9:00.

    Check current betting at Paddy Power

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    5 Responses to “Will it be Napoleon Van Rompuy, or Friday breakfast in Brussels for Blair?”

    1. margaret walters Says:

      Rompuy? is he going to give up leader Belgium if he becomes EU president or is he going to do both jobs at once i wonder.

    2. How can Tony Blair pretend to care? | Swimming Toys Says:

      […] Will it be general Van Rompuy, or weekday breakfast in Brussels … […]

    3. keeptonyblairforpm Says:

      Yes, he is bound to give it up. So this will cause problems for Belgium, it seems, since he has only been there for about a year.

    4. wernerkalders Says:

      @ margaret walters: he will give up his leadership of Belgium. This could bring some old problems back on the horizon. But Belgium was allready moving to a point where instability would increase again (Brussel Halle Vilvoorde like we call it in Belgium for instance). So in a way van Rompuy left Belgium right in time but because he didn’t wanted to become prime minister of Belgium anyway I believe he deserves this job. He’ll do Europe good.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        So the great saviour of Belgium – well, he’s been there about a year, so I suppose that’s noteworthy! – wants out!?

        GREAT. How long will he last as EU PREZ? He said tonight that he didn’t want THAT job either!

        Good God. What an error.

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