Asked how the EU should deal with financial crises in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, Council President Herman Van Rompuy said yesterday (19 May) that because “money matters”, leaders must take care when giving out messages and “think twice” before they open their mouths.
Speaking at the European Business Summit in Brussels, Van Rompuy strongly warned politicians against conveying messages which prove to be counterproductive considering the likely reaction of the markets.
“The biggest problem I have these days is the messages being given out. The messages are part of the problem, not a part of the solution,” Van Rompuy said.
The Council president declared that politicians with huge responsibilities should “think twice” before they speak on “delicate” monetary matters.
“There is an expression: money matters. And because money matters, you have to be very careful what you say in public. And that’s the reason why I’m very, very silent. But it’s my nature that I’m cautious,” Van Rompuy said.
Asked by EurActiv if it were normal for the person representing the EU according to the Lisbon Treaty to be so silent and avoid giving interviews, Van Rompuy answered: “An interview with me or another leader doesn’t change things.”
He said that one day, once people had ascertained what the first president of the European Union had left behind as his legacy, they would not look at the number of interviews he did but at what he had achieved.
‘Not a glamour boy’
“When I accepted this job, of president of the European Council, I gave a definition of what you could expect, and you can’t be disappointed, because I announced the way I would like to carry out this job. It’s not the way of a glamour boy, or a bling-bling, but someone who chairs important meetings, and hopefully gets results,” he said.
‘Bling-bling’ is a slang term taken from hip-hop culture, but in the political field, it has been widely used by the French press to describe the flashy lifestyle of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Van Rompuy was apparently in a good mood and made the audience laugh on several occasions.
‘Even the Pope is no longer Italian’
His best pun came on the topical issue of seeking Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s successor at the helm of the IMF.
At first, Van Rompuy stunned the audience by questioning whether the tradition of a European candidate should be maintained. He said that traditions were not eternal, and even the Pope was no longer Italian.
His words appeared to totally contradict the view expressed the previous day by Commission President José Manuel Barroso, before the same audience.
“Is this once and for all a tradition that can’t be changed?” he asked a puzzled audience.
A few seconds later, he answered his own question: “It is a tradition that can be changed, but not now,” he said, triggering laughs and applause.
Van Rompuy said the next leader of the IMF should be “a person with the highest level of ethics,” and that leaders should not lose time finding a good candidate, because for psychological reasons the IMF chief should be replaced quickly.