Brussels bureaucracy is losing people

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Charles Michel and Viktor Orban

The President of the European Council, 48-year-old Belgian Charles Michel, whose term of office is due to expire in November, announced on January 7 that he intends to leave his post early. This is said to be due to his decision to compete for the mandate of a member of the European Parliament, elections for which will be held from June 6 to 9 this year.

«I have decided to participate. <…> If I am elected, I will take my seat and take the deputy’s oath on July 16. The European Council may anticipate and name a successor at the end of June or the beginning of July», said the law graduate.

Michel will run for the center-right Belgian Reformist Movement party, where he is ranked first on the list of candidates. A total of 720 servants of the people are to be elected to the European Parliament for a five-year term by more than 400 million citizens from 27 EU countries, which is more than in the current legislature (705).

«It is impossible to occupy two positions — chairman and deputy», Michel continued, which is why he is going to resign from the structure of the European executive and join the ranks of legislators to take part in the «crucial process of reforming the European Union».

Let me remind you that the post of the President of the European Council was created about 15 years ago in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty. Its head is responsible for preparing and holding EU summits, where 27 heads of state and government meet. Michel is only the third head of this structure. Prior to him, the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy and the Pole Donald Tusk were in this position. Michel’s current salary is about 300 thousand euros a year. For comparison: the MEP receives less — about 7300 euros a month, that is, more than 87 thousand a year. Feel the difference… But Charles has a common-law wife and two daughters: Jeanne and Lucy. The couple was going to formalize their relationship in the summer of 2020 in France, but the celebration never took place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So why did Michel decide to sacrifice a warm place, and even with a significant loss of income? The thing is that after the elections to the European Parliament, there is a change of heads of the EU governing bodies — the European Council and the European Commission. If Michel had waited until November, he might well have been unemployed. Like other hired Brussels officials, he does not have any guarantees to take a high position at the European level after leaving his post.

There is another significant reason. At the end of last year, the Western media were actively discussing the conflict that had erupted between Michel and the authoritarian head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The Belgian publicly accused «Frau» of abuse of foreign policy powers. The latter, in turn, criticized Charles for his statement that «Ukraine can join the EU as early as 2030 if it fulfills all the required conditions». She pointed out that it was not his business at all to make such promises.

In short, it was a quarrel, a struggle for power. And then suddenly it turns out that Ursula began to weave intrigues aimed at her re-election as head of the European government. And her chances, as experts say, are great. In the new cabinet, if the German realizes her plans, there will be no place for Charles.

If we talk about his successor, the EU leaders will have an opportunity to agree on the appointment of a new chairman of the Council of Europe at meetings on June 17 and June 27–28. This is the deadline.

And if they fail to do so, then Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will become acting President instead of Michel, as from July his country will rotate the presidency of the European Council until the end of 2024. Is it unthinkable that a «terrible child» (from the French enfant terrible, as the European elite call the Hungarian) should take over the European presidency, and even with additional powers! Brussels is generally looking for pretexts to remove Orban, who is «always protesting and disagreeing with the general line», from…the presidency of the European Council (there have been precedents, by the way), so that he does not accidentally make a mess of things. Or, at the worst, to move (for a more favorable) term of Budapest’s European powers.

So for Orbán, the option of taking over Charles Michel’s position even temporarily, becoming acting president, is theoretically possible, but practically unrealistic. The Brussels bureaucracy will fight to prevent this from happening!