In his struggle for attention, Charles Michel was unable to claim much political influence

In his struggle for attention, Charles Michel was unable to claim much political influence

The European election year was finally declared in Brussels last weekend with a surprise from a man from whom you wouldn't expect any surprises so soon. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, announced that he would participate in the European Parliament elections on behalf of the French-speaking Liberals. This is the first time that a sitting president has run for membership in the European Parliament.

Michel, 48, with a circular beard and round glasses, had to fight for attention on the political scene for years with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The President of the European Council chairs the meetings of heads of government, and the President of the Commission controls a large administrative body. Things did not get along between the two.

In Michel's camp, private comments were often made about “the other side of the street,” where the committee was based. The Commission President used to attract attention ahead of the European Summit, the highlight of the President's agenda, with a message on the topics on the agenda, which was very annoying for Michel.

The embarrassing clash occurred during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2021. Erdogan has only prepared one prominent president to lead the two-member European Union. Michele got the seat where von der Leyen had to sit on a side bench. The protocol incident went down in history as “sofagate” and was seen as a misogynistic maneuver and Michelle was blamed heavily.

Bad grades

Michel generally received worse grades in Brussels than von der Leyen. While friends and foes credited her with much political influence, de Waal Michel was known mainly for his speeches in bad English and Brussels diplomats always complained about his chaotic presidency. He may want to meet often, the meetings may last a very long time and he will keep to himself for a very long time the way he would like to organize the meeting.

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After Belgian Herman Van Rompuy and Antarctic Donald Tusk, Michel is the third “permanent” president of the government leaders' meeting. It's a very clear role and not a small one, but most of the work is done in Brussels by the Commission. It was striking that Michel liked to focus on “external” issues, such as the hostility between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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This weekend's announcement is not only important for the elections, but also stimulates debate about filling top European positions after the elections. Timing still causes friction.

Parliament elections will be held from June 6 to 9. Immediately afterwards, important European tasks are divided, in an often unclear game between government leaders that takes place near the European summits at the end of June. Naturally, the party president will remain in office until the fall, but Michel wants to take a seat in parliament from mid-July. Heads of government must therefore appoint a successor before that, otherwise this position will be temporarily occupied by the head of government of the country that holds the rotating presidency of the European Union every six months. As of July 1, it will be Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is currently at odds with the rest of the union because he is blocking financial support for Ukraine. Therefore, government leaders have a great interest in ending the European musical chairs in a timely manner. This procedural rule can be changed by government leaders by a simple majority.

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It is not surprising that Michel aspires to another political position. There has been speculation in Brussels for months about possible successors. Von der Leyen is said to be seeking a second term.

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