In an extensive report, Politico refers to how the 47-year-old former prime minister of Belgium has been receiving intense criticism lately regarding the way he carries out his duties, resulting in him being in the eye of the storm, something that does not deter him.
Charles Michel has long been in the eye of the storm. There are many of his critics who comment both on the fact that the 47-year-old former prime minister of Belgium spends a lot of time on the road and very little time on the main function of his job: preparing and holding summits of the European Council, but also the fact that he constantly increases the his travel expenses. But he appears unfazed by the mounting criticism and is plotting his next steps after his term as president of the European Council ends, according to an extensive report by Politico.
The publication refers to the recent visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Brussels as an invitee to the Council of European Heads of State and Government, which the Belgian politician chairs. Disruption, delays and disruption of the planned agenda are expected. However, the disturbance continued even after the departure of the Ukrainian leader, reports the publication. Each president or prime minister spoke on his own topic, often off the agenda, and the time passed at the table of 27 leaders without the slightest effect or intervention from Charles Michel to bring order.
That’s where Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen stepped in, finally taking the floor and openly and directly criticizing the Council president in an unusual attack. Other leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, also criticized the way he handled the debate. ».
At the same time, Charles Michel has repeatedly caused the frustration, if not the anger, of the ambassadors of the member states, the officials, that is, who do all the preparation for every Summit, but also for every agreement at governmental level from the 27 members . Criticism focuses on the 47-year-old former prime minister of Belgium spending too much time traveling and too little time on his main task: preparing and holding European Council summits. And with his second and final term drawing to a close (in 2024), a new complaint is being added: that he is increasingly focused, not on his current job, but on the next one.
Thus, Charles Michel, according to the publication, appears isolated at the top of the European Council and his relationship with the national governments is at its nadir.
The issue is especially sensitive for Michel, Politico comments, as the European elections approach, followed by the split of the EU’s top jobs. But at 47, Charles Michel has no intention of retiring. With a tenure marred by a famous gaffe and a contentious relationship with the EU’s other top leader, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, questions are being raised not only about his current performance, but also about the future and whether the luck that led him to his already long political career may have finally run out.
Poltico cites documents showing that the Council’s secretariat has asked for more money to finance Michel’s travels. The 2024 budget request, according to internal Council files, calls for an increase, from €2m to €2.5m, “related to the functioning of the European Council president”, a jump of more than 25% . Most of that is for extra travel expenses, according to the documents.
Charles Michel’s penchant for private flights has also raised questions. Figures show the Belgian politician took 26 private flights between January and November last year. According to internal rules, S. Michel is only allowed to fly privately when commercial options are not available.
Many diplomats question the point of this frenzy of international activity – particularly when the E.U. it already has a foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, who is responsible for the EU’s external relations. and spends most of his time traveling around the world.
Another trip by the president of the European Council sparked controversy and strained his relationship with the European Commission: S. Michel surprised many when he made an unannounced visit to Kiev on January 19, two weeks before the summit. The … solo trip was widely seen as an attempt by S. Michel to steal the show from the Commission, which had announced that it planned to send a team of commissioners to Kiev in those days.
And after the end of his term?
Several EU officials and diplomats they complain that he’s spending too much time promoting himself and focusing on what he’ll do after 2024. His challenge now is to find a job he’s qualified for, but without demoting himself. Another term as president of the Council is legally not allowed. A return to Belgian national politics is also unlikely, as this would be considered relegation. Then there is the possibility that he will run for a seat in the European Parliament, following in the footsteps of his father and Guy Verhofstadt, another former prime minister of Belgium.
In this case, he could still become the next president of the European Commission if he is appointed head of his party in the European Parliament. In addition, the position of the governor of the European Investment Bank is also vacant next year.
However, the position that seems to suit him best, Politico concludes, is none other than that of Z Borel, i.e. High Representative of the EU. for International Relations. With so many miles on his odometer, he certainly makes a strong case for this high-profile post.
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