Charles Michel, current interim Prime Minister of Belgium, has been appointed as the new President of the European Council, calling it both “a privilege and a responsibility”.
The appointment was made by the EU heads of state on Tuesday evening. In other news, the German Minister Ursula von der Leyen was nominated for the Presidency of the European Commission (with her appointment being subject to approval by an absolute majority in the European Parliament), while Christine Lagarde of France was nominated as President of the European Central Bank, and Josep Borrell (S&D) of Spain was nominated as High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
After three days of negotiations, the 28 leaders agreed on the distribution of the EU’s main posts, taking into account geographical, political and gender balances.
Brexit and climate change
The future President of the European Council Charles Michel stressed on Tuesday the importance of building “useful and positive compromises” for Europe in order to face the major challenges ahead, citing, among other obstacles, “Brexit, climate change and various other economic developments”.
“I think we must do our utmost to serve the citizenry, even if it means compromising. In the end, compromises are steps in the right direction,” Charles Michel said at press conference shortly after his election. “It is a great honour, privilege and responsibility for me to have been chosen to preside over the European Council,” he said, before adding: “I fully appreciate the weight of this responsibility and its potential impact in guaranteeing diversity, unity and solidarity within the European project.”
Asked about the situation in Belgium, Charles Michel reminded everyone that he would only succeed Pole Donald Tusk in December, and expressed his wish that a federal government “could be formed within a reasonable amount of time”. The term of office of the President of the European Council is two and a half years, and is renewable only once.
When he takes over from Donald Tusk, Charles Michel will immediately be immersed in the major debates of the moment – especially Brexit, which may be take place as early as October. When pressed by British media on this issue, Charles Michel refused to discuss it further. “In the coming months and weeks, we will surely have the opportunity to discuss Brexit again,” he said.
Shortly before this press conference, Donald Tusk told him that he was “certain that the new leaders” of the European institutions would be “as coherent as we are with regard to the withdrawal agreement and our willingness to discuss the future relationship” with London. Another sensitive subject that the Belgian will have to deal with quickly once in office is the distribution of the hundreds of billions of euros of the 2021-2027 EU budget, which the Heads of State and Government hope to finalise before the end of the year.