Meeting behind closed doors in Brussels, leaders of the E.U.’s 27 nations chose Rompuy, a self-effacing, haiku-writing politician who has served as Belgium’s premier for just 11 months, over more widely recognized names such as former British prime minister Tony Blair.
Leaders also agreed to name Britain’s Catherine Ashton, currently the E.U. trade commissioner, to the newly-created post of EU foreign-policy chief.
Van Rompuy said in 2004 that he strongly opposed Turkey’s EU accession, reported the EU Observer on its web site. “Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be part of Europe,” Rompuy said. Rompuy’s opposition was based on Europe’s Christian “fundamental values,” he said in a meeting of the Council of Europe in the Belgian parliament in 2004.
“An expansion of the EU to include Turkey cannot be considered as just another expansion as in the past. The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigor with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey.”
According to the EU Observer, the speech has remained relatively unknown. Belgian officials, however, confirmed that the speech was made but noted that the comments were made when Rompuy was part of the opposition.
“Things that are said in opposition are different from what you find yourself saying when in government,” one official said. “Serious politics, however, is to judge someone by what they say and do when in power.”
“If we ruled out all the politicians that had said awkward things in the past, we’d have a very short list indeed,” said another official.