Charles Michel


Charles Yves Jean Ghislaine Michel[1][2] (French: [ʃaʁl miʃɛl]; born 21 December 1975) is a Belgian politician serving as President of the European Council since 2019. He previously served as Prime Minister of Belgium between 2014 and 2019.


Charles Michel
Michel in 2019
President of the European Council
Assumed office
1 December 2019
Preceded byDonald Tusk
Prime Minister of Belgium
In office
11 October 2014  27 October 2019
MonarchPhilippe
DeputyJan Jambon
Kris Peeters
Koen Geens
Didier Reynders
Alexander De Croo
Preceded byElio Di Rupo
Succeeded bySophie Wilmès
President of the Reformist Movement
In office
18 February 2019  29 November 2019
Preceded byOlivier Chastel
Succeeded byGeorges-Louis Bouchez
In office
14 February 2011  10 October 2014
Preceded byDidier Reynders
Succeeded byOlivier Chastel
Minister of Development Cooperation
In office
21 December 2007  14 February 2011
Prime MinisterGuy Verhofstadt
Yves Leterme
Herman Van Rompuy
Preceded byArmand De Decker
Succeeded byOlivier Chastel
Personal details
Born
Charles Yves Jean Ghislaine Michel

(1975-12-21) 21 December 1975 (age 45)
Namur, Wallonia, Belgium
Political partyReformist Movement
Other political
affiliations
ALDE Party
Domestic partnerAmélie Derbaudrenghien
Children3
FatherLouis Michel
EducationUniversité libre de Bruxelles
University of Amsterdam

Michel became Minister of Development Cooperation in 2007, and remained in this position until elected the leader of the Francophone liberal Reformist Movement (MR) in February 2011. He led MR to the 2014 federal election, where they emerged as the third-largest party in the Chamber of Representatives. After coalition negotiations, Michel was confirmed as Prime Minister of a MR-N-VA-OVLD-CD&V government. He was sworn in on 11 October 2014, becoming the youngest Belgian Prime Minister since 1845.

In December 2018, the government collapsed following internal disagreements over the handling of the Global Compact for Migration, with the N-VA withdrawing from the cabinet. Michel subsequently tendered his resignation and remained in office in a caretaker capacity.[3] At the 2019 federal election shortly afterwards, MR lost a number of seats, although Michel remained in office as interim Prime Minister during coalition negotiations. Weeks after the federal election, on 2 July 2019, the European Council voted to appoint Michel as its new President. He took over from Donald Tusk at a ceremony on 29 November 2019, formally beginning his term on 1 December 2019.[4][5]

Early life and education


Charles Michel was born in Namur, Wallonia, on 21 December 1975. He is the son of Louis Michel, a former European Commissioner, and Martine Pierre.

Michel began his political career at the age of 16 when he joined the Young Liberal Reformers of Jodoigne (Jeunes Réformateurs Libéraux de Jodoigne), affiliated to the MR. In 1994, at the age of 18, he was elected provincial councilor in Walloon Brabant. He graduated in law at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the University of Amsterdam in 1998, after which he became lawyer at the Brussels Bar. He is fluent in Dutch and English in addition to his native French.

Early political career


Michel was elected to the federal Chamber of Representatives in 1999, representing Walloon Brabant, a stronghold of the liberal MR.

In 2000, he became Minister of Home Affairs in the Walloon Government aged 25, making him the youngest regional minister in Belgian history.[6] At the local level, he was elected city councillor in Wavre in 2000, and in 2006 became mayor of the city.

In December 2007, Michel became the Minister of Development Cooperation in the Verhofstadt III Government and subsequently in the Leterme I, Van Rompuy I and Leterme II governments.[7]

After poor results in the 2009 regional elections, Michel was part of a group demanding the MR leader Didier Reynders resign. After the party suffered further losses in the 2010 federal election, Reynders resigned, and Michel announced his candidacy to replace him. In January 2011, he was elected President of MR, and resigned from the cabinet.[8]

Prime Minister of Belgium


Michel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, 31 January 2018

After the 2014 federal election, Michel became co-formateur in the ensuing coalition negotiations. Initially, CD&V Leader Kris Peeters was expected to be Prime Minister. However CD&V also insisted on Marianne Thyssen being appointed as European Commissioner, and Michel's MR refused to allow the two most important political posts to be held by a single party.

Ultimately, the parties agreed to appoint Thyssen as European Commissioner, with an understanding that the prime ministership would go to either MR or OVLD. As Michel was serving as co-formateur, he quickly won internal support from other parties to lead the next government. On 7 October 2014, an overall agreement was reached between the four parties to form a new government, with Michel proposed as Prime Minister, and Peeters as one of four Deputy Prime Ministers. Michel became the youngest Belgian Prime Minister, and was only the second Francophone liberal to become Prime Minister.[9][10]

In December 2018, a political crisis emerged over whether to sign the Global Compact for Migration. Michel's coalition partner N-VA, which originally supported the Compact, reversed course to oppose it whereas the other three parties continued to support it. Michel subsequently announced the formation of a minority government, with CD&V, MR and OVLD backing the compact.[11][12][13] On 18 December, he presented his government's resignation to the King. The King accepted Michel's resignation on 21 December after consulting party leaders.[14] He remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister during the 2019 federal election, and the ensuing coalition negotiations.

President of the European Council


On 2 July 2019, Michel was elected President of the European Council, one of the most prominent leadership positions of the European Union.[15]

On 20 July 2020, Michel announced a historical deal on the recovery package Next Generation EU and the EU 2021–2027 budget to support member states hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August 2020, Michel expressed "full solidarity" with Greece and Cyprus in their conflict with Turkey,[16] which has occupied the northern part of Cyprus since July 1974. The Aegean dispute between Turkey and Greece escalated when Ankara resumed gas exploration in contested areas of the eastern Mediterranean.[17]

On 27 September 2020, Michel expressed deep concern over the escalation of hostilities in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately halt fighting and progress towards a peaceful resolution.[18]

Visit in Turkey

On 6 April 2021, during his visit with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to Ankara, Charles Michel found himself at the heart of a protocol incident.[19] During their meeting with the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he took the only one chair available near to their host. Ursula von der Leyen was therefore forced to sit on a sofa, set back from Charles Michel and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.[20][21][22] This incident, nicknamed "Sofagate" shocked many members of the European parliament and triggered many criticisms, putting Michel under pressure.[23] It also undermined the relations between the European Union and Turkey. This latter, first accused of a misplaced attitude and of damaging the image of the European Union, refuted the criticisms by explaining that the official protocol agreed with EU was strictly observed and the fault lied with the European protocol services.[24] At the initiative of several members of the European parliament a special session was requested to clarify the reasons of the incident and to debate the question.[23]

Crisis in Georgia

Following 2020 Georgian parliamentary election Georgia rushed towards a political crisis. The Georgian Dream ruling party won a parliamentary election in October 2020 in a vote allegedly marred by violations according to the opposition. The opposition parties boycotted the results of the elections and refused to enter the parliament. [25] The situation got even more complicated following the arrest of opposition politician Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement (UNM), leading to the resignation of the country's prime minister and mass street protests.[25]

On the 1st of March 2021, President Michel visited Georgia, where he participated in the talks between Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the opposition.[26] Charles Michel, in cooperation with EU's High Representative Josep Borrell, appointed his personal envoy, Swedish diplomat Christian Danielsson to mediate the political crisis talks between the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties. [27] On 15 and 16 March, President Charles Michel met Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels and took stock of Georgia's political situation.[26]

On the 20th of April, Charles Michel visited Georgia and held meetings with political leaders in Tbilisi following the signing of an agreement the day before. The deal was proposed by Michel after several weeks of mediation. The agreement was welcomed by him as "a truly European spirit and takes you towards your Euro-Atlantic future."[26]

The agreement was welcomed as a success by international community, stating that signing of this agreement was a significant step,[28] and local civil society organizations. The Europe-Georgia Institute issued a special statement praising the agreement and stating that "Dealing with the crisis and stabilizing political processes are vital interests of every Georgian citizen."[29]

Honours


Personal life


Michel and his partner Amélie Derbaudrenghien have two children. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple postponed their wedding, which was supposed to take place in France in August 2020, to avoid quarantine upon return to Belgium.[30]

Ancestry


References


  1. "Quante divisioni ha Ursula von der Leyen?". L'Opinione delle Libertà. 14 April 2021. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  2. "Wie had kunnen denken dat … Charles Michel Europees president zou zijn?". De Standaard (in Dutch). Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  3. Dunst, Charles. "Charles Michel to head Belgian caretaker government – POLITICO". Politico.eu. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  4. "Charles Michel takes over from Donald Tusk as President of the European Council". General Secretariat of the Council. Press release. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. @eucopresident (29 November 2019). "It's time: I am handing over the #EUCO bell & this Twitter account to my friend @CharlesMichel. Best wishes, Mr President! Thank you all for accompanying me over the last 5 years! europa.eu/!Yd78Cd Don't worry, I will continue tweeting on @donaldtusk and @donaldtuskEPP" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  6. "Charles Michel officiellement candidat à la présidence du MR". Le Vif. 13 December 2010.
  7. "20 March 2008 – Royal Orders. Government – Dismissals – Appointments" (PDF) (in Dutch and French). The Belgian Official Journal. 21 March 2008. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  8. "Michel vs. Reynders: waarom de MR elke keer wat anders zegt". De Morgen. 27 June 2014.
  9. "Dit waren de jongste en de oudste eerste ministers van ons land". Het Belang van Limburg. 8 October 2014
  10. "BIOGRAFIE. Charles Michel wordt jongste premier uit Belgische geschiedenis". De Standaard. 7 October 2014
  11. "Charles Michel confirme qu'il ira à Marrakech: "Je prends acte que la N-VA quitte la majorité suédoise"". Le Soir (in French). Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  12. "Michel zet minderheidsregering zonder N-VA in de steigers". De Tijd (in Dutch). 8 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  13. News, Flanders (8 December 2018). "Road to minority government being paved". vrtnws.be. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  14. "Koning zet consultaties ook morgen nog verder: geen gesprek met Vlaams Belang". Het Laatste Nieuws (in Dutch). 20 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  15. Europese knoop ontward: Charles Michel wordt voorzitter van de Europese Raad
  16. "Greek PM: "It is not possible for the EU to adopt a different stance on Belarus and another on Turkey"". Greek City Times. 20 August 2020.
  17. "As Greece-Turkey relations worsen, EU calls for de-escalation". The Week. 17 August 2020.
  18. "Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes: How the world reacted". aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020.
  19. Daniel Boffey (7 April 2021). "Ursula von der Leyen snubbed in chair gaffe at EU-Erdoğan talks". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  20. Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Carlotta Gall (7 April 2021). "Two presidents visited Turkey. Only the man was offered a chair". nytimes.com. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  21. BBC News (7 April 2021). "Ahem! No seat for von der Leyen". BBC News. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  22. Inc., Reuters (9 April 2021). "EU commission head taken aback as Erdogan and her colleague snap up the chairs | The Guardian". theguardian.pe.ca. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  23. Lorna Hutchinson (8 April 2021). "#SofaGate furore rages on as Charles Michel comes under pressure to publicly apologise". The Parliament Magazine. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  24. BBC News (8 April 2021). "Turkey blames EU in 'sofagate' diplomatic spat". BBC News. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  25. EU brokers deal to end political crisis in Georgia
  26. The political crisis is over, says President Michel in Georgia
  27. President Michel Appoints Envoy to Mediate Georgia Crisis Talks
  28. 'Truly European way of resolving crisis': foreign diplomats welcome agreement reached between political parties in Georgia
  29. EGI Statement, April 19, 2021
  30. Barbara Moens (August 20, 2020), Charles Michel postpones wedding to avoid quarantine Politico Europe.
  31. Michiels, Alix; Van Hecke, Robert (2016). "Un enfant trouvé dans la généalogie de notre premier ministre à Anvers en 1834". GéniWal (69): 8–17. Retrieved 11 February 2017.[permanent dead link]