Another marvelous guest post by Dr. Arf.
So, by now all us Europeans are living in a different European entity. Because, even if some of our Head Honchos will be jittery about calling a spade a spade, we now have a European president. Woo- hoo, break out the champagne, throw huge, lavish parties with people madly dancing, drinking and fornicating in the streets into the night for a fortnight. Or should we?
Because, my fellow Europeans, we didnâ€™t get no Obama as EU president. While there is a cautious â€?yes we can’ (if we stick together) attitude, my countryâ€™s now ex- Prime Minister and your EU Prez, Herman (not Herbert, you foolish English tabloids) Van Rompuy isnâ€™t particularly know for his talent to rally people for the cause like his American counterpart still can, even with some lost feathers near the end of his termâ€™s first year.
The new EU Prez (source)
No, good old Herman is the greyest mouse you could possibly have for the job and expresses himself in haiku (this is the first and last time I will refer to that, and donâ€™t expect me to write one on his behalf, thankyouverymuch). If youâ€™ve been following the European news for the last couple of days, you will have heard several terms come back about Herman. â€?Aloofâ€™, â€?boringâ€™, â€?consensus builderâ€™ and so on… You will get my own take on Hermie, but letâ€™s just start at the beginning, which was roughly two weeks ago. Being a Belgian native, I witnessed firsthand how this Union got its Belgian Prez.
With the election of the seat about three weeks away, there were rumours â€“ I had to find out through the BBCâ€™s excellent comedy panel show â€?Have I Got News For Youâ€™ â€“ about a number of people who were named as candidates : Dr. Filâ€™s second home native EU bobo Jacques Santer, Hollandâ€™s very own adult Harry Potter clone and PM Jan-Peter Balkenende and The Man Who Is President Of So Many Foundations And Institutions He Hardly Knows Which Ones, Only That Heâ€™s Filthy Rich Because Of It, the UKâ€™s former Labour PM, Tony Blair.
I admit, the latterâ€™s a rather lengthy moniker, but it is all too true. Blair even prides himself in being the spokesperson for British supermarket chain ASDA in… Palestine! Anyway, to cut a long, money grabbing story short : all of this was sufficient reason for many a EU country to veto Blairâ€™s candidacy, no matter how much Gordon â€?I think the whole UK wants to lynch meâ€™ Brown put his foot down and backed the guy he shoehorned out of Downing St. No. 10 against all odds. (Cue Phil Collins song) Brown would eventually drop Blairâ€™s candidacy in exchange for the EU socialists getting a British Foreign Affairs Minister in Cathernie Ashton. Allâ€™s well that ends well…
Anyway, there they were; all major candidates in a row. Oh yeah, there were some others too and almost as an afterthought, Van Rompuyâ€™s name was mentioned as one of them. Cut to a week later and our local journos (on Flemish TV, that is, since I live in The North) came out with the news that their well informed sources within the EU Parliament had told them Hermie was a strong candidate, opposed by no one. When asked, our PM said nothing at first and a week later only that he wasnâ€™t asked and that he didnâ€™t intend to run. But IF asked, he would.
However, this â€?no oppositionâ€™ claim wasnâ€™t really all that true. Aside from other â€?informed sourcesâ€™ who contradicted that there was consensus about Van Rompuy, there was clear opposition… from the UK tabloid press. And the further in the week and the stronger the rumours about our PMâ€™s impending leap up the political ladder, the fiercer the rumours got. The conservative Daily Telegraph, not particularly known for getting their facts straight but rather for their, eh, conservative stance at all cost, even named him â€?Herbertâ€™. All rather silly and all rather out of proportion, unless you know that almost all UK news media is siding with the Tories in the UK right now and they are already campaigning for next yearâ€™s national elections. The Tories are fierce â€“ pointy teeth and all â€“ Eurosceptics (anti- European more like it). Then again, political Britain just wants the EUâ€™s benefits and none of the responsibilities and the difference between Labour and the Tories is as thick as a teenâ€™s pubic hair.
Meanwhile, last week, when PM Van Rompuyâ€™s candidacy rumours were getting beyond the point of ignoring, a new problem surfaced in the media : if Herman â€“ the guy who managed to build a consensus between politicians from both North and South on a national level and got a â€“ albeit flimsy â€“ grip on Belgiumâ€™s economic crisis â€“ was going to run Europe, who would be running the country? One name popped up : Mr. â€?800.000 Votes Canâ€™t Be Wrongâ€™, Yves Leterme. And the mere mention of the man prompted francophone newspaper Le Soir to literally impose its veto on Leterme as Belgiumâ€™s PM, merely because they donâ€™t like his style and they, or rather, editor in chief BĂ©atrice Delvaux (who managed to utter the â€?faux pasâ€™ â€śI believe that Letermeâ€ť before correcting â€?Iâ€™ into â€?the paperâ€™ on national TV, thereby exposing her private agenda as well as the fact she used her newspaper for it) came out, guns blazing and knives sharpened. Even the francophone politicians felt that this was a bridge too far. â€?We use the media for our agenda, not the other way aroundâ€™ was the message when a francophone politician said that â€?Le Soir is not making policy in this countryâ€™. As it stands and as Iâ€™m writing this, a mere few hours after Van Rompuyâ€™s acceptance speech, this issue is only now starting to become the hot potato which could land this country in another crisis, at a time it needs it the least.
One last fait divers about Hermieâ€™s run up to the presidency : those pesky British tabloids, in their usual fashion â€“ tits on Page3, filth and smut in the rest of the paper â€“ ran increasingly negative stories about Van Rompuy. His sister â€“ a very red socialist (ex- communist party PvdA) politician of her own â€“ allegedly said he was a clown, hadnâ€™t spoken to him in over a year, and so on. Which wasnâ€™t true. The red nose was a campaign stunt of PvdA, and they had spoken just a week ago, she countered only hours ago on a talk show. So where did the British press get all this misinformation from? Youâ€™ll never believe it : a BELGIAN lobby firm, represented by a nephew of ex- PM and former EU Chairman hopeful Guy Verhofstadt. While Verhofstadt himself was probably not behind this vicious attack, his nephew had no qualms about feeding these stories, even when untrue, to the British public â€?because thatâ€™s what the media wants to runâ€™. Can I come out and say in no uncertain terms that such morally challenged ratbags (Iâ€™ll keep it civilised) like these should be sentenced to a life of forced labour without the possibility of parole, while being prison bitch to a 300 pound serial rapist with severe halitosis (sorry, couldnâ€™t help myself in the end)?
So, my EU friends, now heâ€™s been elected unanimously, what can you expect of your president, Herman Van Rompuy? Well, he IS a consensus builder, and when itâ€™s being said that â€?if he can hold a country like Belgium together, heâ€™ll certainly be able to do the same with the 27 EU countriesâ€™, you should take that seriously, because he will do his darndest to put all the noses in the same direction. Itâ€™s also said heâ€™s an EU nobody, politically speaking. Do NOT make the mistake to think Van Rompuy wonâ€™t know what he wants and heâ€™ll be a harmless puppet to the likes of Angela â€?I was in the sauna on the other side of the Wallâ€™ Merkel and Nicholas â€?I singlehandedly tore down the Berlin Wallâ€™ Sarkozy. Some EU bobos will undoubtedly have felt this way when casting their votes and they will be sadly mistaken. Yes, he IS aloof and he only speaks when he feels it matters. No flamboyance there, but do not mistake him for a sock puppet.
What else? Well, he is a catholic and a conservative. Not necessarily negative treats, even though that makes him my political opposite. However, heâ€™s also an intellectual who several times spoke out against what he calls â€?direct democracyâ€™; aka the will of the people via binding referenda. His reasoning was that constituents could not be trusted with this power, hence they needed elected representatives like him, who would decide what was best for them. This was many years ago, but it stayed with me because it incensed me to no end. If people do not know how to wield democracy, it is, in my opinion, not the task of the elected representatives to make up their minds for them, but to teach them how to wield that power effectively. Not so for Van Rompuy, and I was sorely disappointed when not a single journalist drove this issue home when he was about to take over as PM from Leterme. The fact that he was a consensus builder and didnâ€™t really want the job took precedence over that.
In closing : no matter what his qualities may be, Herman Van Rompuy is very much a politicianâ€™s politician, and that, too, will have been a reason why he was elected by his peers (!) as EU Council president for the next two and a half years. The only hope I have for this presidency is that Herman Van Rompuy will learn as much about direct democracy as he will be teaching us about intereuropean consensus. Time will tell…
– dr. Arf
Sunday, November 22nd, 2009