Belgium’s outgoing prime minister Charles Michel (MR) will succeed Donald Tusk as the new chair of the European Council, popularly known as the ‘president of Europe’. The announcement was made on Tuesday evening, together with announcements of other EU leadership posts, following the May elections.
Michel, 43, is just the third to hold the post but the second Belgian; Herman Van Rompuy of CD&V was the first to occupy the role, which was created a decade ago.
Michel’s name had been circulating for several weeks as a potential candidate for the job, though he was not considered the favourite. His supporters included French president Emmanuel Macron.
Describing himself as “a committed European, but not a naive and smug European,” Michel is currently Belgium’s caretaker prime minister while negotiations continue to form a new federal government.
A united Europe with respect for national diversity is my objective
– CHARLES MICHEL
“To be appointed president of #EUCO is a great responsibility and a task I will fulfil with commitment,” Michel tweeted immediately following the announcement. “A united #Europe with respect for national diversity is my objective. Solidarity, freedom & mutual respect are the core of the European Union. I will uphold those values.”
Michel grew up in a political family; his father Louis was a party leader, deputy prime minister and European commissioner. Michel studied law at ULB in Brussels and at the University of Amsterdam and became a local councillor in Walloon Brabant at the age of just 18. Five years later, he became one of Belgium’s youngest-ever members of parliament.
His term presiding over the European Council will begin on 1 December. The official term of the post is two-and-a-half years, with normally an extension granted of another two-and-a-half years.
Photo: Benoit Doppagne/BELGA