The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, is preparing a return to national politics in his home country, Belgium, according to local media reports.
Insiders told Business AM that Michel is getting ready to leave the EU scene after being humiliated by Brussels rival Ursula von der Leyen.
While he is expected to profile himself as as saviour of his troubled homeland, the frequent clashes with von der Leyen are said to be the real motive for the switch.
“Everything suggests Charles is preparing himself for a comeback in Belgium. You can feel it,” a top source within the Belgian Government was quoted as saying. “He is warming up in the wings.”
With Belgium entering another of its existential political crises, Michel is vying to “emerge from the bushes as the saviour of the fatherland”.
In the EU bubble, Michel is perceived as the clear loser in his ongoing clash with von der Leyen.
“It is clear who won the internal power struggle within the EU,” Business AM reported. “Today, Charles Michel has been outplayed in Europe and an extension of his mandate is no longer possible.
“At the same time, friend and foe alike praise von der Leyen, comparing her to a Commission president with the profile of [French Socialist and EU hero] Jacques Delors. If she has the ambition, a second five-year term seems up for grabs: even Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, a Socialist after all, says she deserves it again.”
Von der Leyen will give her State of the Union speech on September 13, in which she is expected to showcase results on Ukraine and a new round of European Union enlargement.
Michel meanwhile has a less impressive track record. His European stint will mainly be remembered for his frequent flying in private jets.
Michel and von der Leyen have never had a good relationship. Von der Leyen is expected to be able to choose between another stint as EC President or a leadership role at NATO, a reward for her apparent success in Europe. Michel is, according to the EU rumour mill, running out of options.
Some even suspect von der Leyen intentionally rubbed salt in Michel’s wounds by promoting Belgian Commissioner Didier Reynders, an old arch-enemy from Michel’s Liberal party days in Belgium. Reynders was given prestigious extra responsibilities after the decision by Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to take leave during her bid for a top job at the European Investment Bank.
It is “hard to imagine” Michel taking another EU mandate and facing five more years of being eclipsed on the Brussels scene, it is reported.
European Council President @CharlesMichel has been hunting for a luxury watch valued at around €20,000, Brussels Signal has learned.@eucopresident | @EUCouncilPress | @EU_Commission https://t.co/7tIRkcnKN6
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) September 7, 2023