The European Union (EU) has done something unprecedented. It has quietly elected a President of Europe, not by a general election, but by quiet ballot amongst its own leadership.
The two top contenders for the job were well-known former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a virtually unknown political player, Belgium Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy. Blair lost big-time.
Just how unknown is Rompuy? Recent polls suggest that of all the citizens of the expanding EU less than 15% have even heard the name much less know anything about the man, and yet he is now been put into the position of controlling their lives.
Just what do we know about Rompuy? Is he a friend of the United States? Where does he stand on the Middle East? What kind of relationship does he have with countries like China, Turkey and the Russians? What direction will he take Europe, quickly becoming under the auspices of the EU, a major world super power?
From his own lips Rompuy admits he is a man that normally does his work "from the shadows," whatever that might mean. According to the Guardian Rompuy is adamant about not allowing Turkey membership into the EU. Just 5 years ago Rompuy was quoted as saying "An enlargement (of the EU) with Turkey is not in any way comparable with previous enlargement waves. Turkey is not Europe and will never be Europe....But it's a matter of fact that the universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also the fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey." His election has caused political sparks to fly in that all-important ally for Western/U.S. interests with many fearing that this could be the final blow that sends Turkey into the arms of radical Islamic extremism.
A man I have much respect for as a writer is Joel C. Rosenberg ("The Last Jihad"). He feels that Rompuy's quiet election to the new post of EU President could spark a bonfire that may change the face of future politics, not only in Europe, but throughout the world. He admits that we must have a wait and see attitude, but with his past track-record of near perfect predictions, one shouldn't discount his concerns.
Here is what we do know about Rompuy.
He began his career in politics as an economist with the Belgium central bank. He gained respect within his own country by helping drive down his country's debt and was rewarded with the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget. He later became a member of Belgium's Chamber of Representatives and then moved up to the position of Minister of State. On December 1, 2009 he will take the newly created post of European Union President, giving him control of all its member countries, currently numbering 27 with a citizenship of 500 million, a landmass approximately 2,000,000 square miles and a GNP exceeding $20 trillion dollars. He will control trading with the EU's biggest contributors, China and the Arab countries of the Middle East (who supply 98% of Europe's energy). What will be interesting is to see how the new EU President will look upon Israel now that the small Middle Eastern democracy has found vast reserves of oil and natural gas within its own borders. Will he view Israel as a competitive trading partner with the Arabs or as a threat to the EU's existing close relationship with the Arabs?
Here is what others say about Rompuy:
"A ruthless political operator" -- The London Telegraph
"Bland" -- Time Magazine
"Shrewd political operative" - The European Voice
"A camera-shy man who has been catapulted from relative obscurity....An avowed federalist, he has called for national symbols within the EU to be replaced by European symbols.
He has also called for a tax on financial transactions within the bloc to fund the EU." -- BBC News
We are truly living in interesting times. (to quote an old Chinese curse)