Herman Van Rompuy – meet the new president
Brussel Journal: Herman Van Rompuy. Get used to the name. He is the first President of the European Union, which with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon by all the 27 EU member states in early November was transformed into a genuine United States of Europe.
The President of Europe has not been elected; he was appointed in a secret meeting of the heads of government of the 27 EU member states. They chose one of their own. Herman Van Rompuy was the Prime Minister of Belgium. I knew him when he was just setting out, reluctantly, on his political career.
To understand Herman, one must know something about Belgium, a tiny country in Western Europe, and the prototype of the EU. Belgians do not exist as a nation. Belgium is an artificial state, constructed by the international powers in 1830 as a political compromise and experiment. The country consists of 6 million Dutch, living in Flanders, the northern half of the country, and 4 million French, living in Wallonia, the southern half. The Belgian Dutch, called Flemings, would have preferred to stay part of the Netherlands, as they were until 1830, while the Belgian French, called Walloons, would have preferred to join France. Instead, they were forced to live together in one state.
Belgians do not like their state. They despise it. They say it represents nothing. There are no Belgian patriots, because no-one is willing to die for a flag which does not represent anything. Because Belgium represents nothing, multicultural ideologues love Belgium. They say that without patriotism, there would be no wars and the world would be a better place. As John Lennon sang “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.”
In 1957, Belgian politicians stood at the cradle of the European Union. Their aim was to turn the whole of Europe into a Greater Belgium, so that wars between the nations of Europe would no longer be possible as there would no longer be nations, the latter all having been incorporated into an artificial superstate.
A closer look at Belgium, the laboratory of Europe, shows, however, that the country lacks more than patriotism. It also lacks democracy, respect for the rule of law, and political morality. In 1985, in his book De Afwezige Meerderheid (The Absent Majority) the late Flemish philosopher Lode Claes (1913-1997) argued that without identity and a sense of genuine nationhood, there can also be no democracy and no morality.
One of the people who were deeply influenced by Dr. Claes’s thesis was a young politician named Herman Van Rompuy. In the mid-1980s, Van Rompuy, a conservative Catholic, born in 1947, was active in the youth section of the Flemish Christian-Democrat Party. He wrote books and articles about the importance of traditional values, the role of religion, the protection of the unborn life, the Christian roots of Europe and the need to preserve them. The undemocratic and immoral nature of Belgian politics repulsed him and led to a sort of crisis of conscience. Lode Claes, who was near to retiring, offered Herman the opportunity of succeeding him as the director of Trends, a Belgian financial-economic weekly magazine. It is in this context that I made Herman’s acquaintance. He invited me for lunch one day to ask whether, if he accepted the offer to enter journalism, I would be willing to join him. It was then that he told me that he was considering leaving politics and was weighing the options for the professional life he would pursue.
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