Open Europe Blog

More on your new President

Suddenly the illusive Belgian Prime Minister’s various books have taken on a new appeal and we’ve been down the library in an effort to learn more about our unelected new President, Herman Van Rompuy and what kind of thinking he will bring to Europe. (These days in EU politics, you have to do your own research about who is appointed to the important positions – and after the event, given there’s obviously no attempt to inform or convince you before they are wheeled out.)

In addition to the stuff we uncovered last week, here’s a few snippets from his books:

In his book “Vernieuwing in hoofd en hart : een tegendraadse visie” (Renovation in Head and Heart: a contrary vision, 1998), for instance, Van Rompuy celebrates the fact that the euro was imposed in Germany even though the majority of people were against it.

He says:

“Luckily monetary union has arrived. In a couple of years it would have been too late… In Germany the majority of the population is against the replacement of the German Mark by the Euro, but Chancellor Kohl has stood firm. Monetary union has arrived, despite a large part of the population. That’s possible in a parliamentary democracy, a lot less so in a direct democracy. Later it will become clear what kind of a revolution the euro was and how this project has brought us out of the ‘age of mediocrity’”. (p 61)

He also talks about harmonisation of EU taxes as a tool to keeping them high:

“If we don’t want to let the global level of taxation sink away, we will have to consciously levy certain new taxes at the European level or harmonise some of these, for example in the field of environment, mobility, income from capital… Every time it will be a movement upwards.”

In what can only be interpreted as a desire to scrap the EU unanimity rule on taxation, he says: “This movement won’t be easy because with regards to taxation the rule of unanimity prevails in Europe. In other words, every country possesses a veto right.” (p 57)

Unsurprisingly Van Rompuy is in favour of obligatory voting. He says:

“Personally I am in favour of the duty to vote, precisely because the citizen has rights and duties. Without an obligation, the weakest won’t participate in the democratic process and their rights – just like in the United States – will not be given enough exposure.” (p 35)

On Turkey, he wrote in his book “Op zoek naar wijsheid” (In search of wisdom, 2007) :

“Modern man should not only be a traveller or a seeker. He should also have a nest, a pillar of certainty and security. That we are experiencing now. One has to deal carefully with the sense of loss of identity. Therefore the proponents of Turkish accession are playing with fire. Turkey is neither culturally nor geographically considered to be a European country even though for decades it has belonged to NATO and other European institutions. It ‘alienates’ the Union even more from the European citizen. Three hundred years ago Turkey was the enemy of the big European countries, by the way. The geopolitical argument is that a European Turkey can be an example of tolerance for the whole of the Middle East. But Turkey has for 80 years been a secularised state – thanks to repeated military coup d’états – but that hasn’t had any influence on the bordering countries which are more and more getting into the grip of islamic extremism. However, there needs to be a ‘link’ with the Union.” (p69)

And in his book, “De binnenkant op een kier : avonden zonder politiek” (A glimpse into the inside: evenings without politics, 2000), Von Rompuy mused:

“Americans are more religious than Europeans. Would that be because life in the United States entails more risks than life here? Are Americans seeking more shelter with God? In a sermon of a preacher I only heard a prayer for consolation and compensation for setbacks. Without this spiritual power America would have never proceeded so strongly on the material field. A real paradox. Europe doesn’t have a God any more. It could be our problem of the future.” (p 147)

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