How Greece exposed the slippery slopes of Europe
Hopes for this not very famous Belgian were never all that high.
But on his first pandora bracelet collection big day in the global spotlight, the newly minted EU President proved unequal to the task even of reading out his own prepared statement.
Smiling nervously, head down, holding on tight to his script, Mr van Rompuy emerged from Brussels' Solvay Library, scene of the meeting of EU leaders.
They had, he said, asked Greece, the state which triggered the drama, to meet ambitious pandora charms singapore targets for reform.
They called, he said, on the Greek government to "implement all these measures in a rigorous and determined matter."
Standing next to Mr van Rompuy, the lips of Jos Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission, twitched.
"Manner," he muttered, trying to keep a straight face.
Mr van Rompuy trailed off mid sentence, his index finger tracing agitated patterns in the air.
"I have to rehearse," he confessed. "I have to repeat."
Mr Barroso was grinning uncontrollably now. "Manner, not matter," he chortled.
The President shrugged his shoulders, and had another go.
Even with better reading out loud skills, however, van Rompuy's real problem was content, not delivery.
Cicero himself would have struggled to inspire confidence with vague, room temperature phrases like: "We fully support the Greek government and their commitment to do whatever is necessary."
Dealing rooms across the globe looked in vain for anything more specific but that would have required a degree of consensus among the EU members which, so far, simply does not exist.
The Greek financial meltdown, a kind of Acropolis Now, has not killed the euro. Nor, at least in the medium term, is it likely to.
But it has brutally exposed the EU's self delusions. Mr van Rompuy was supposed to be the face of the new, "ever closer" union forged by last year's Lisbon constitutional treaty, a Europe with a consolidated "legal personality" a superpower, trumpeted the Euro boosters, which had finally come of age.
Alas, however, Herman van Rompuy was where sells pandora bracelets one of no fewer than five presidents of Europe in Brussels and the real power lay with none of them. The people actually in charge were, as usual, the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy and they disagreed about what to do, representing pandora store website the two sides of what threatens to become a fundamental divide.
For all its pretensions of unity, Europe is made up of two very different kinds of country.
Greece is the most extreme example of the first kind corrupt, profligate Mediterranean places where tax evasion is rife and governments have brazenly lied about their finances. Germany is the opposite northern, thrifty, and responsible, the EU's cash cow.
The two kinds of nation, whose economies are not really compatible, were not ready to share a single currency at all, but the political desire for the broadest possible union was so great, and the Mediterraneans' wish to join the club so strong, that blind eyes were turned.
In the long term, the euro can only succeed if the Mediterraneans and northerners narrow their economic differences.
But the rules supposed to make these massively imbalanced economies converge have been broken or fudged by almost everyone. Even worse, the euro has actually reduced their incentive to achieve economic convergence.
If the Italians had still had the lira and the Greeks the drachma, the risk of a currency crisis would have pressured them to make reforms, cut waste and improve their competitiveness.
Once in the euro, that pressure was off at least until now. Membership of the euro has also allowed Germany to get away with low domestic demand and a massive trade surplus, another huge source of imbalance in the single currency area.
Now the recession has exposed the harsh truth and a further divide.
Mrs Merkel was simply refusing to agree that her hard working taxpayers should cough up for the Greeks' and others' mistakes. German newspapers asked angrily why the people of Germany, who must now work until they are 67, should have to dig even further into their heavily taxed pockets to fund Greece's retirement age of 63.
Mr Sarkozy, by contrast, does want a bail out, albeit linked to strict, centrally imposed reforms of the wrongdoer countries. The French, and indeed Mr van Rompuy, are pushing the idea of an European "economic government" a political semi union that can simply impose, from Brussels, the reforms needed to achieve convergence across the euro area. To hard core Eurocrats, this week's crisis is just one more opportunity to press ahead with Project Superstate.
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