The new President of the European Council is changing the tone. For the first time, only the heads of state and government were allowed at the table of the European Council. Foreign ministers were banned from the room, as were all political advisors. What used to be a big circle of delegations sitting opposite each other now became a very cosy setting. The heads of state didn't need their TV screens any more to see their counterparts as all 27 convened at the same table in the middle of the room, writes Le Monde. It probably goes too far to say that Herman van Rompuy assembled his "cabinet" for the first time, but the new Council President has definitely made an impression on the country leaders.
His first tones are absolutely pro-European. Van Rompuy sees himself as a federalist, not shy of using the "f-word". In his speech at the dinner on Thursday, he clarified that he sees the European Council as a working institution, not a talking institution. "We have to focus on taking political decisions rather than our traditional conclusions", he said (my translation).
Next Tuesday, van Rompuy will fly to Spain to talk to Zapatero about the Spanish Council presidency - and to make it clear that he is in charge now, according to Le Monde.
My dear hope is that Van Rompuy will continue on this way and disprove his critics. Many thought he was too diplomatic and would not take position. Now, he will be judged by his achievements. Let us hope for the best!