Charles Michel
Official portrait, 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 48)
Namur, Wallonia, Belgium
Political partyReformist Movement
Other political
affiliations
ALDE Party
SpouseAmélie Derbaudrenghien
Children3
Parent
Alma materUniversité libre de Bruxelles
University of Amsterdamˈ

Charles Michel (French: [ʃaʁl mi'ʃɛl]; born 21 December 1975) is a Belgian politician serving as the president of the European Council since 2019. He previously served as the prime minister of Belgium between 2014 and 2019.

Michel became the minister of development cooperation in 2007 at age thirty-one, 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 Jean-Baptiste Nothomb in 1841.

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.[1] 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.[2][3] He is pursuing a liberal economic policy combining privatization of public services, cuts in public spending, pension reform and deregulation of the labor market.

In January 2024, he announced he would step down as president of the European Council to run in the 2024 European Parliament election.[4]

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

Shortly after finishing university, while his father was Belgium's Minister of Home Affairs, Michel was elected to the federal Chamber of Representatives in 1999 (age 23), 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.[5] At the same time, his father was minister of Home Affairs at the national level. 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.[6]

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.[7]

Prime Minister of Belgium

See also: Michel I Government and Michel II Government

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 in 173 years since Jean-Baptiste Nothomb in 1841, and was only the second Francophone liberal to become Prime Minister.[8][9]

Michel and United States Secretary of State John Kerry, 25 March 2016

In the Ministry of Security and the Interior, many tasks of the federal police are being privatized (securing public buildings, supervising detainees, etc.), while the departments concerned with international crime (especially computer and financial crime) are being decentralized. In defence, while the budget for investment in equipment has been increased at the request of NATO, the number of personnel is to be reduced by 19.5 per cent. Federal cultural and scientific institutions have been hit by budget cuts of 20 per cent. The budget allocated to the functioning of the judiciary is also depleted, leading Belgium's highest magistrate to accuse the "logic of economy" of being responsible for a "pathology of the entire judicial system that endangers the rule of law."[10]

Michel with US Vice President Mike Pence in 2017

On 1 January 2016 the tax shift began to take effect. This includes increasing the take-home pay of the lowest income earners through a decrease in social security contributions. The expected increase is €80 net for an employee earning €1,500; €70 for those earning €2,100; and €60 for those earning €2,800. Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt says "the tax shift will be a tax cut", although the value-added tax on electricity will rise from 6% to the standard rate of 21% and excise duties on alcohol, diesel, tobacco and soft drinks will increase. A liberal orientation was also adopted in the area of pensions (Bacquelaine law, which reduced the pensions of the formerly unemployed) and labour law (Peeters law, which deregulated the use of overtime, part-time contracts and flexible hours).[11][12]

Michel with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018

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.[13][14][15]

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.[16] He remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister during the 2019 federal election, and the ensuing coalition negotiations.

President of the European Council

Michel meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden, June 2021

On 2 July 2019, Michel was elected President of the European Council, one of the most prominent leadership positions of the European Union.[17]

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,[18] 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.[19]

Michel meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, French President Emmanuel Macron and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Prague, 6 October 2022

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.[20]

Michel meeting in Kyiv with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, April 2022
Michel meeting in Helsinki with the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, May 2022
Michel meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen with in the 2022 NATO summit in Madrid on 29 June 2022
Michel meeting in Paris with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, November 2023

After French-U.S. and French-Australia relations suffered a period of tension in September 2021 due to fallout from the AUKUS defense pact between the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia. The security pact is directed at countering Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region.[21] As part of the agreement, the U.S. agreed to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. After entering into AUKUS, the Australian government canceled an agreement that it had made with France for the provision of French conventionally powered submarines.[21] Von der Leyen called the way France was treated "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation.[22] The EU called the way France was treated "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation.[23][24] Michel denounced a "lack of transparency and loyalty" by the United States.[25]

Michel with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and other leaders at the International Conference on Development and Migration in Rome, 23 July 2023

During his tenure, there were internal expressions of discontent, including from a Prime Minister and diplomats from different EU countries to Michel's administration. The EU summits, for which he is responsible as president, were criticized for being not well organized. During his tenure, he ignored the decisions of the European Commission instead of remaining solution-oriented like his predecessors in office. A diplomatic fauxpas known as the "Sofagate" was described as a symbol of the strained working relationship between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Michel.[26]

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, sanctions against Russia also included asset freezes on the Russian Central Bank,[27] which holds $630 billion in foreign-exchange reserves,[28] to prevent it from offsetting the impact of sanctions.[29] On 5 May, Charles Michel said: "I am absolutely convinced that this is extremely important not only to freeze assets but also to make possible to confiscate it, to make it available for the rebuilding" of Ukraine.[30]

In September 2022, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at his palace in Jeddah to discuss strengthening cooperation between the EU and Saudi Arabia.[31]

Michel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, 29 June 2023

In February 2023, Michel met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa to normalize EU-Ethiopia relations that had been damaged by the Tigray War.[32][33]

Michel meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, 14 May 2023

In September 2023, Michel condemned Azerbaijan's offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh and urged the country to immediately stop its military activities and return to dialogue.[34] In October, he said that Russia "betrayed the Armenian people" after Azerbaijan regained control of the disputed zone from Armenian separatists.[35]

In January 2024, he announced he would step down early as Council President in order to run in the 2024 European Parliament election.[36]

Crisis in Georgia

Further information: 2020–2021 Georgian political crisis

President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili, Maia Sandu, Volodymyr Zelensky and Charles Michel during the 2021 Batumi Conference.

Following the 2020 Georgian parliamentary election, Georgia experienced a political crisis. The ruling Georgian Dream party was deemed the winner, but the opposition parties said that the election was marred by irregularities and violations, they boycotted the results of the elections and refused to enter the parliament.[37] After Georgian authorities arrested opposition politician Nika Melia, the chairman of the opposition United National Movement (UNM), the country's prime minister resigned and mass street protests ensued.[37]

In March 2021, Michel visited Georgia and participated in talks between Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the opposition.[38] Michel and the EU's High Representative Josep Borrell appointed Swedish diplomat Christian Danielsson as the EU envoy to mediate political crisis talks in the country.[39] Michel also met Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels later that month,[38] and met political leaders in Tbilisi in April 2021, after an agreement was signed after several weeks of mediation brokered by Michel and the EU.[38] The agreement was welcomed as a success by the international community[40] and local civil society organizations such as the Europe-Georgia Institute,[41] and Michel hailed the agreement as being in "a truly European spirit" that takes Georgia towards a "Euro-Atlantic future."[38] Later the largest opposition party in Tbilisi did not accept the agreement and the ruling party withdrew from it.[26]

Honours

Personal life

Michel and his wife Amélie Derbaudrenghien Michel (née 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.[43] In October 2021, Derbaudrenghien Michel and Michel's spokesman confirmed that the couple discreetly married over the summer of 2021 with a small celebration.[44]

Michel also has a son from a previous relationship.[44]

References

  1. ^ Dunst, Charles (21 December 2018). "Charles Michel to head Belgian caretaker government – POLITICO". Politico.eu. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  2. ^ "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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ @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! https://europa.eu/!Yd78Cd Don't worry, I will continue tweeting on @donaldtusk and @donaldtuskEPP" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  4. ^ "EU's Charles Michel to quit Council presidency, run as MEP – DW – 01/07/2024". dw.com. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  5. ^ "Charles Michel officiellement candidat à la présidence du MR". Le Vif. 13 December 2010.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Michel vs. Reynders: waarom de MR elke keer wat anders zegt". De Morgen. 27 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Dit waren de jongste en de oudste eerste ministers van ons land" [These were the youngest and oldest prime ministers of our country]. Het Belang van Limburg (in Dutch). 8 October 2014.
  9. ^ "BIOGRAFIE. Charles Michel wordt jongste premier uit Belgische geschiedenis" [BIOGRAPHY. Charles Michel becomes the youngest Prime Minister in Belgian history]. De Standaard (in Dutch). 7 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Belgium, dismantled by stealth". February 2018.
  11. ^ "Tax shift: Charles Michel promet une hausse de 100 euros par mois dès 2016 pour les bas et moyens salaires" [Tax shift: Charles Michel promises an increase of 100 euros per month from 2016 for low and medium salaries]. La Libre (in French).
  12. ^ "Le tax shift prend effet dans quelques jours: Voici quel sera l'impact sur votre salaire" [Tax shift takes effect in a few days: here is what will be the impact on your salary]. RTL Belgium.
  13. ^ "Charles Michel confirme qu'il ira à Marrakech: "Je prends acte que la N-VA quitte la majorité suédoise"" [Charles Michel confirms that he will go to Marrakech: "I note that the N-VA is leaving the Swedish majority]. Le Soir (in French). 8 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Michel zet minderheidsregering zonder N-VA in de steigers" [Michel is putting a minority government in the works without N-VA]. De Tijd (in Dutch). 8 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Road to minority government being paved". vrtnws.be. 8 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Koning zet consultaties ook morgen nog verder: geen gesprek met Vlaams Belang". Het Laatste Nieuws (in Dutch). 20 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  17. ^ Europese knoop ontward: Charles Michel wordt voorzitter van de Europese Raad
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ "As Greece-Turkey relations worsen, EU calls for de-escalation". The Week. 17 August 2020.
  20. ^ "Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes: How the world reacted". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Explainer: Why is a submarine deal sparking a diplomatic crisis?". www.aljazeera.com.
  22. ^ "EU chief: Treatment of France 'not acceptable'". CNN. 20 September 2021.
  23. ^ "Aukus row: EU officials demand apology from Australia over France's treatment before trade talks". The Guardian. 21 September 2021.
  24. ^ "Sous-marins australiens : Ursula von der Leyen juge 'inacceptable' la façon dont la France a été traitée" [Australian submarines: Ursula von der Leyen considers the way France has been treated "unacceptable"]. Le Monde (in French). 19 September 2021. Archived from the original on 20 September 2021.
  25. ^ "EU chief Michel denounces 'lack of loyalty' by US". France24. 20 September 2021. Archived from the original on 20 September 2021.
  26. ^ a b Neukirch, Ralf (12 January 2022). "This man torpedoed Ursula von der Leyen - why?". Der Spiegel (in German). Spiegel Online.
  27. ^ Kirschenbaum, J. (16 May 2022). "Now is not the time to confiscate Russia's central bank reserves". Bruegel.
  28. ^ Davidson, Kate; Weaver, Aubree Eliza (28 February 2022). "The West declares economic war on Russia". Politico. Archived from the original on 1 March 2022.
  29. ^ Pop, Valentina (25 February 2022). "EU leaders agree more Russia sanctions, but save some for later". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022.
  30. ^ "Germany open to Russian Central Bank asset seizure to finance Ukraine's recovery". Euractiv. 17 May 2022.
  31. ^ "Crown Prince, European Council president discuss energy, climate change issues". Saudi Gazette. 13 September 2022.
  32. ^ "PM Abiy discusses with European Council President Charles Michel". FanaBC. 19 February 2023.
  33. ^ "News: Ethiopia welcomes EU's move to normalize relations, opts to strengthen partnerships". Addis Standard. 27 April 2023.
  34. ^ "Azerbaijan launches attack on Nagorno-Karabakh as peace with Armenia ends". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 19 September 2023.
  35. ^ Gwyn Jones, Mared; Lory, Gregoire (3 October 2023). "Russia has 'betrayed' Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh – Charles Michel". euronews. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  36. ^ "EU Council President Charles Michel to step down early". BBC News. 7 January 2024. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  37. ^ a b "EU brokers deal to end political crisis in Georgia". Reuters. 19 April 2021. Archived from the original on 2 May 2023.
  38. ^ a b c d The political crisis is over, says President Michel in Georgia
  39. ^ President Michel Appoints Envoy to Mediate Georgia Crisis Talks
  40. ^ 'Truly European way of resolving crisis': foreign diplomats welcome agreement reached between political parties in Georgia
  41. ^ EGI Statement, April 19, 2021
  42. ^ "УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №394/2021". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  43. ^ Barbara Moens (August 20, 2020), Charles Michel postpones wedding to avoid quarantine Politico Europe.
  44. ^ a b "Meet the EU's first lady". POLITICO. 19 October 2021. Retrieved 23 February 2023.

Media related to Charles Michel (politician) at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices Preceded byArmand De Decker Minister of Development Cooperation 2007–2011 Succeeded byOlivier Chastel Preceded byElio Di Rupo Prime Minister of Belgium 2014–2019 Succeeded bySophie Wilmès Preceded byDonald Tusk President of the European Council 2019–present Incumbent Party political offices Preceded byDidier Reynders President of the Reformist Movement 2011–2014 Succeeded byOlivier Chastel Preceded byOlivier Chastel President of the Reformist Movement 2019 Succeeded byGeorges-Louis Bouchez