Herman Van Rompuy named as first permanent EU President

Thursday, November 19, 2009

File photo of Herman Van Rompuy.
Image: Luc Van Braekel.
File photograph of Baroness Catherine Ashton, who was chosen as the first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Image: World Economic Forum.

Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy has been chosen as the first permanent President of the European Council, at a meeting of European Union leaders today in Brussels.

Baroness Catherine Ashton of the United Kingdom has been selected as the first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The positions are both newly created by the Lisbon Treaty.

Following a week of negotiations, Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was attempting to find a compromise among the leaders of the EU's 27 member states, after division over candidates had previously failed to result in a unanimous decision. Van Rompuy's selection finally took place today, and fairly quickly, over a dinner meeting among European leaders.

"I did not seek this high position, I didn't make any steps to achieve it, but from tonight I take on this task with conviction and enthusiasm," Van Rompuy said at a news conference after being chosen.

"Europe must be in every member state's advantage," he continued. "This cardinal principle leds me to a two-track approach. First of all, I will consider everyone's interests and sensitivities. Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every country has its own history, its own culture, its own way of doing things. Our journey may be toward a common destination, but we will all bring along different luggage."

He also promised to ensure that every country in the EU will emerge victorious from any decision taken. He is to officially become the EU president on January 1 of next year.

Initially, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair was a popular candidate for President. However, the relatively unknown Van Rompuy, apparently backed by France and Germany emerged as a compromise. Germany had denied backing Van Rompuy, despite its ambassador to Belgium saying to the De Morgen newspaper that "The German government is in favour of Prime Minister Van Rompuy, and if his candidacy fails it will not be because of Berlin."