Herman van Rompuy: The man who wants to control your finances

The European president Herman van Rompuy offers a tempting target for jokers. But his call for for the imposition of a common economic policy, backed up with surveillance and punishments, has a decidedly sinister ring.

Andrew Gilligan

Herman van Rompuy, the president of Europe, hasn’t enjoyed the kindest press. In Britain at least, the “richly comic” “blustering Belgian”, a “garden gnome” and “dwarf” “straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan” has been treated as a sort of joke created largely for the benefit of tabloid headline writers.

Mr van Rompuy may never come to match, say, Vince Cable in the glamour stakes – but people who knew him in his previous job always warned that the “Mr Nobody” gibes were misplaced. As Belgian prime minister, Mr van Rompuy helped to bring together his notoriously divided country, and sharply reduced its budget deficit. Now, he has similar steely ambitions to unite and discipline Europe.

Last week, in Berlin, Mr van Rompuy proclaimed an EU leader’s strongest message of federalism yet. He said that after the financial crisis, “the national and the European interest can no longer be separated: they coincide… today, we have to act on [that] fact… in every [EU] member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion – it is a lie.”

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