Herman Van Rompuy
From battling the euro crisis to promoting peace in Ukraine, it has been an eventful presidency for Herman Van Rompuy, the first ever president of the European Council. On 1 December he will pass the baton to Donald Tusk. As Van Rompuy visited the Parliament for his last debate this week, we asked him about his greatest triumphs and the main challenges facing Europe.
How do you look back on your presidency and what were the greatest triumphs?
My presidency was dominated by the crisis in the euro zone, but with a lot of effort we succeeded to stabilise it. Imagine if we hadn’t: we wouldn’t have stagnation, but a depression like in the 1930s. We managed to avert a real catastrophe. This was a collective effort by the institutions and the member states.
Last Thursday and Friday we also reached a climate agreement, reducing gas house emissions by 40% compared to 1990 by 2030. We achieved all the previous goals and we are now very ambitious. We are once again leading globally on this.
What do you see as the main challenges for the upcoming term?
We need to do everything to restore economic growth and employment. We have already done a lot, but it hasn’t led to sufficient results, so we need to step up our efforts.
Van Rompuy is also famous for his haikus, a short poetic form popular in Japan. For the interview he presented us with this poem (translated from Dutch): A wreath of stars, Floating on the blue sea, Together forever.
There is also the crisis in Ukraine. It’s a bad development that borders have been altered unilaterally because borders guarantee peace. We in Europe should see how we can contribute to peace and restore stability in the region, while respecting the will of the Ukrainian people wishing closer ties with the European Union.
Another challenge will be the position of the UK in the EU after the next elections there. How can we contribute - but not at any price - that the country stays in the Union. They have to want it and set conditions that are acceptable for us. In any case the intention is - and I think for the British leaders too - to keep the UK in the European Union.
How should the EU institutions respond to euroscepticism?
Results speak louder than words and declarations. We should convince European citizens of the benefits the EU produces in terms of wealth, economic growth and employment.
We should also improve how we speak about Europe. It is unacceptable to participate in European decision-taking in Brussels, but blame all unpopular decisions on the EU once you are back in your own country. It creates a negative image of the EU.
What do you intend to do next?
My political career will end on 1 December, creating time to pursue other activities I have been putting off. I will teach in Louvain-la-Neuve in French and at the College of Europe in English. I will also give speeches on topics that interest me. I look forward to it, but of course I will also miss my political life in Belgium and Europe. I am very grateful that I was allowed to take up this role.
REF. : 20141105STO77610
Updated: ( 07-11-2014 - 12:29)