A soft-spoken economist little known outside his home country of Belgium is the unlikely choice to serve as the first President of the European Union.
Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy — known as "Haiku Herman" for his love of penning poetry — was chosen Thursday by leaders of the union's 27 member states to serve as permanent President of the European Council.The low-profile Van Rompuy, 62, emerged as a favorite after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair failed to win over liberal EU leaders, in part due to his support for the invasion of Iraq. Though he offers little international experience,
Van Rompuy has won praise for bringing stability to his nation's fractious politics and, before that, helping balance its financial books. A strong opponent of Turkey's admission to the E.U., Van Rompuy begins his two-and-a-half year term on Jan. 1.Born Oct. 31, 1947 in Brussels. Attended Sint-Jan Berchmans College, a Jesuit school in the Belgian capital, before studying philosophy and economics at the Catholic University of Leuven.