The Corner

In Brussels, a Circle Is a New Direction

In a demonstration of how democracy works in the E.U.’s suite of offices, the reelection of Herman Van Rompuy as president of the European Council — and thus one of the two most powerful people in the E.U.’s goo-like bureaucracy — was announced yesterday. The vote was an impressive unanimous to nothing because, of course, real people had no say in Van Rompuy’s victory.

In many ways, he’s the right man for the job. He loves to tweet and to tax, and of all the verse forms, haiku is his favorite. He is the former prime minister of Belgium, a country that spent most of the last year without an actual government — and without the Belgians really caring about that very much. Even after Van Rompuy’s latest triumph, he would be unknown today if not for MEP Nigel Farage’s description of him as having “the charisma of a damp rag” — a comment that was met by highly publicized outrage, and not just by damp rags. I’ve written about him before several times, most recently, I think, here.

Nile Gardiner, writing in the Telegraph, captures the mission of Van Rompuy perfectly by quoting from one of the most stirring passages in his acceptance speech, which seems to have been delivered in a rather small conference room:

In a way my job is to be the guardian of trust: fostering mutual understanding around this table among ourselves.

If “bunker” weren’t an offensive, militaristic term banned by E.U. consensus, it might be used to describe the mentality of this great man of the people — or, well, specifically, the people around the table. A thrill must have passed through the room when Van Rompuy issued his call to action:

We must convince people across Europe that their sacrifices in these crisis years were not made in vain, that they are leading to result, that the eurozone in the end comes out stronger: This has to be our biggest concern. It is our only way to win over the hearts and minds of the Europeans.

Talk about an uphill struggle. It is going to be tough for the European Union to win the hearts and minds of “the Europeans,” especially since Van Rompuy’s ambition is to preserve “the European way of life” — which he has defined as a “welfare state” requiring higher taxes. In overtaxed, debt-plagued Europe, hearts and minds that can’t be bought fair and square certainly can’t be won.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...


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