Lots of important people have been stopping by Columbia
for the United Nations General Assembly just to talk to you! We sent our Mindful Minion Miranda Kantor to see what Herman Von Rompuy–a mild-mannered Belgian whose hobbies include winning the Nobel Peace Prize, writing Haiku, and being president of the European Council–had to say at the World Leaders Forum.
After a reading of an original Rompuy haiku, the first order of the day was clarifying what exactly the ‘President of the European Council’ is. No, he does not rule Europe – though when his fellow Belgians call him the ‘President of Europe’ he never denies it (“When someone tells you something positive about you, accept it, because it won’t happen very often.”)
Essentially, Rompuy is the main representative of the European Union, and presides over the European Council, which is a body of all of the heads of state of EU member countries. This position involves helping 27 (soon to be 28 now that Croatia is joining the club) world leaders make tough compromises. Not an easy job, but Rompuy explained: “I’m a Belgian; compromise is in my nature. Belgians find compromises even when they’re not needed.”
Rompuy warned that if he made comments on goings-on in specific member states then he would lose his job immediately, but he managed to safely share his opinion on a number of issues, including the situation in Syria (“There is no military solution whatsoever”), a possible new trade agreement between the EU and the US (“It will be an engine for growth”), Turkey’s application to join the EU (“I am strongly in favour”) the issue of jobs for the young generation (“Very important”), and the debate around government surveillance (“It’s a sensitive issue”). ‘Haiku Herman,’ as he is known in Belgium, is often a man of few syllables. He also slipped in some heartfelt congratulations for recently re-elected Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.
Despite some tough questions about the future of the EU, Rompuy managed to keep the discussion on a positive note, announcing that the ‘existential crisis’ that the European Union faced after the recent economic meltdown is over. He claimed that there is now solidarity among Europeans and the people no longer fear a collapse of the Union or an end to the Euro. He felt that one of the most important things the EU learned from the crisis is that having a common currency is great and all, but in order for it to work European countries need more common policy.
Right now the EU is deepening their integration of policy, but according to Rompuy “there will never be a United States of Europe,” because European countries are very attached to their unique histories, languages and cultures. Still, the EU isn’t going anywhere, and there are now more countries that want to join. “I think the EU is still sexy,” 66-year-old Rompuy concluded, “and the President of the European Council—he’s sexy for sure.”
Two Rompuy haiku:
tongues, towers and gods.
I search my way.
‘On the seasons’:
In a nearby ditch
toads mating passionately
Sexy Von Rumpuy via MercoPress