Herman Van Rompuy
First President of the European Council

Tuesday 8 Sep

21.00 - 00.00

Belgium

Herman Van Rompuy, born 31 October 1947, is a Belgian politician, who formerly served as Prime Minister of Belgium and then as the first President of the European Council.

A politician from Belgium's Christian Democratic and Flemish party, Van Rompuy served as the 66th prime minister of Belgium from 30 December 2008 until November 2009. On 19 November 2009 Van Rompuy was selected by the members of the European Council, which is the institution of the European Union (EU) comprising the heads of state or government of the EU member states, as the first full-time President of that Council under the Treaty of Lisbon. On 1 March 2012 he was re-elected for a second (and last) term, to last from 1 June 2012 until 30 November 2014.

Political career

 

Belgian Minister of Budget (1993–1999)
Van Rompuy was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget from September 1993 to July 1999 in the two governments led by Jean-Luc Dehaene. As budget minister, together with finance minister Philippe Maystadt, he helped drive down Belgium's debt from a peak of 135% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1993. It fell to below 100% of GDP in 2003.[10]

 

Member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives (1995–2009)
He was elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in the 1995 general election, but as he remained a minister, he was barred from taking the seat while holding that office. After his party's defeat in the 1999 Belgian general election, he became a member of the Chamber of Representatives. He was re-elected in 2003 and 2007. In 2004, he was designated Minister of State.

Prime Minister of Belgium

 

On 28 December 2008, following the 2007–2008 Belgian political crisis, Van Rompuy was asked by King Albert II to form a new government after he was reluctant to take up the role of prime minister. He was sworn in as Belgian prime minister on 30 December 2008.

President of the European Council

 

 

On 19 November 2009, Van Rompuy was chosen unanimously by the European Council, at an informal meeting in Brussels, to be the first full-time President of the European Council; for the period of 1 December 2009 (the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon) until 31 May 2012. He took up his position officially on 1 January 2010.

 

Gordon Brown also praised Van Rompuy as "a consensus-builder" who had "brought a period of political stability to his country after months of uncertainty". This opinion is shared by others; he has been described as the painstaking builder of impossible compromises (l'horloger des compromis impossibles) A statement made by Van Rompuy at a news conference after his selection illustrates his approach:

"Every country should emerge victorious from negotiations. A negotiation that ends with a defeated party is never a good negotiation. I will consider everyone's interests and sensitivities. Even if our unity remains our strength, our diversity remains our wealth." He has also described his role of chairing a body composed of 27 heads of state or government (and finding consensus among them) as being "neither a spectator, nor a dictator, but a facilitator"

On 1 March 2012 Herman Van Rompuy was re-elected unanimously as President of the European Council by the heads of state or government of the 27 EU member states. President Van Rompuy's second term has lasted for two and a half years, from 1 June 2012 to 30 November 2014. After this second mandate he could not have been re-elected because the European Council President's term of office can only be extended once.

Herman Van Rompuy was also appointed as the first President of the Euro Summit, and this for the same term of office as his Presidency of the European Council. The Euro Summit meetings are to take place at least twice a year.

In 2014, Van Rompuy was awarded the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen for his EU role.

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