Charles Michel

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You are Charles Michel, President of the Council of Europe

The Office of the President of the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is a gathering of the heads of state from all member nations. The Council meets to determine the policies and positions of the European Union. It is the duty of the Council President of the council to schedule, organize, facilitate, and arbitrate these meetings. Your duty is daunting--you are tasked with helping twenty-seven countries come to a common solution. This is not always possible. When it proves to be impossible then the EU is not allowed to undertake that specific issue. The Council President is also tasked with representing European interests abroad. In a way similar to the President of the Commission, you are charged with representing the EU at summits and other important gatherings of heads of state. Though this defines your role less than that of the President of the Commission, you are still a very important behind the scenes actor. The primary duty of the President of the European Council is to build consensus. Without consensus, the EU is powerless to act. Within the simulation there are only two other EU countries, Britain and France. Remember that while you are very interested in the policies of these two countries, and they will be a focus of your work, your post does have a scope broader than just EU countries. Consensus building stretches beyond just European countries. You want to make sure that all nations friendly to the EU help support its policies. If you are successful in this enterprise, it will make the job of the High Representative and the President of the Commission much easier.


Charles Michel

You were born in December of 1975 in the city of Namur, in Belgium’s Wallonia region. A lawyer by trade, you became involved in politics at a young age, first being elected to local office at the age of 18. Belgium’s political system is famously complex, but it helps to know that the country is roughly divided between the Flemish region in the north, and the French-speaking Wallonia region in the south (there is also a smaller German speaking population in the east of the country). Your father was a longtime leader of the French-speaking liberal party, the Mouvement Réformateur, and you followed in his footsteps, taking the lead of that party in 2011. One characteristic of the Belgian system is the requirement that any government must be made up of parties from across the linguistic spectrum, and in 2014, you found yourself at the center of negotiations that included parties representing German and Flemish speakers, as well as the French speakers you represented, but that also spanned the political spectrum from liberal to conservative. After lengthy negotiations, you found yourself at the head of the so-called “Kamikaze Government” (so named because it seemed doomed to self-destruct) and were chosen at Belgium’s youngest Prime Minister ever, taking office at age 39.

Your party is politically of the center-right, and during your tenure as Prime Minister you worked to privatize public services, to reduce government spending, and to scale back labor regulation. You managed to keep your government intact for four years, an impressive feat, and you used the time to build a network of allies across Europe and within the EU itself. One of your strongest allies is your fellow pro-European liberal, French President Emmanuel Macron. As your government was starting to crumble in 2018, the representation of liberals in the European parliament had just grown significantly in elections held that year, creating an ideal circumstance for you. Just as your governmental coalition came apart, you were chosen as President of the Council of Europe, replacing Donald Tusk of Poland. Not surprisingly, the issue of refugee policy that brought down your government was the looming issue as you took the helm of the Council of Europe. Together with President Macron and other political allies, in a time of Brexit and increasingly restrictive immigration policies in many European nations, you are working to keep the European Union together and viable. This may well mean the establishment of a two-tiered system, in which some countries would continue in the current system requiring mandatory relocation of migrants within the EU, while other nations would perhaps take part on more of a voluntary basis, helping to address refugee emergencies through the provision of financial and technical assistance rather than through absorbing more refugees.


You as President of the Council

Though Borrell and von der Leyen are more internationally visible, you are perhaps the most active of the three. You revel in behind the scenes negotiations that make public proclamations come together so seamlessly. While Borrell is in negotiations with Israel about allowing an aid flotilla to reach Gaza, and von der Leyen is drumming up public support, you will be working behind the scenes encouraging key allies to lend their support, reminding them of how important human rights are, and emphasizing how the EU smiles upon those who forward this agenda. While others, like von der Leyen, make use of the public stage to lobby for support, you approach key countries behind the scenes and attempt to hammer out key details and compromises. While the CFSP may become an important aspect of your job, short of a crisis it should not. Your favored means of interaction will most likely be the communiqué. That said, you know well that communiqués can only so much. The three EU representatives must work together and come to a beneficial division of labor. Remember that you are known as a consensus builder. Looking for the common ground and the best way to approach the problem is something that is central to your role, and your identity.

Within the European Union you are one of the central players. You are tasked with organizing the meetings of the European Council. This is a group of heads of state that meets to agree on the Council's official positions. Here your job takes the form of arbiter. You strive to find the common ground between the nations so that a common policy can be arrived at. In terms of foreign policy, you are one of the key players behind devising the CFSP. It is also your responsibility in this simulation to propose any necessary changes to that policy. Should a crisis arise which requires a response from the EU, it is your duty to present this to the Council of Europe. This means being capable of clearly articulating why the former CFSP was insufficient and arguing for why the new CFSP fills that particular gap. Your actual role in foreign affairs is vague beyond the establishment of the CFSP, but over time a role for the Council President has been established. Primarily the President of the European Council is viewed as a strategist, helping to see how to work with the existing CFSP. He is also viewed as a behind the scenes man. Dealing with heads of state through private communiqués more so than public statements, and seeking to lay the groundwork for foreign support of EU policies. Your powers overlap with both the President of the European Commission and the High Representative. You are expected to represent Europe on the international stage, and are one of the three people allowed to represent the EU at the U.N. This said, in order to avoid stomped toes, the Council President has worked diligently on the behind the scenes affairs of the EU. This requires close cooperation with your teammates in order to ensure that you are similarly interpreting the CFSP, and that each knows and understands what the other is doing. If another leader receives three communiqués asking the same question, her view of the EU will be that of a disorganized group of individual actors rather than an organized group seeking to achieve a common goal. You must guard against such an eventuality.


References

https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/charles-michel-the-compromise-builder/

https://www.thenewfederalist.eu/who-is-charles-michel-the-next-president-of-the-european-council

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Michel

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