European Council President Charles Michel was universally re-elected for a second term by council leaders on Thursday. However, the lack of any opposition gave US President Joe Biden cause to joke while talking with the Council leader.
“I came to congratulate a man who just got re-elected without opposition. I dream of that some day” says @POTUS standing next to @eucopresident Charles Michel who just got reappointed as EU Council President with no one else putting themselves forward.Biden gets Brussels then. pic.twitter.com/Gw96lDvgqS — Jack Parrock (@jackeparrock) March 24, 2022
The unanimous election has not been uncontroversial. Anonymous EU diplomats denounce Michel's style in De Morgen as typically Belgian in that everything is delayed and last minute, leading to long, late night meetings.
In the same paper, other critics point to how after a summit in July 2020 in which EU leaders negotiated both a budget and recovery fund, Michel stood on a balcony doing interviews, while then German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did all the work.
Then, there is a chilly relationship with Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, which reached new lows during the "sofagate" incident. The two leaders visited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last April, but only two chairs were available in the reception room. The two men quickly sat down on them, leaving von der Leyen to retreat to a sofa further away.
- It's a woman's world – unless a Belgian man gets in way...
- Ukraine 'part of European family,' but western leaders oppose accelerated procedure
Michel's supporters point to his ability to compromise, his ambition and closeness to Macron. “But he is also available for other leaders to call in case of national problems,” said a diplomat in De Morgen. “He is seen as a loyal soldier, not an annoying little man.”
Michel will serve for two and a half more years, from 1 June 2022 to 30 November 2024, according to an EU council press statement. In his role, Michel chairs European Council meeting and promotes the external representation of the EU, especially on common foreign and security policy.
The former Belgian Prime Minister has been President of the European Council since 1 December 2019.