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from Global News Journal:

Cometh the hour, cometh Van Rompuy?

van rompuy2Three months ago, Herman van Rompuy might have struggled to be recognised on the streets of his native Belgium, let alone Paris or London. The bookish former prime minister, a fan of camping holidays and Haiku poetry, was nothing if not low-key; a studious consensus builder in the world of Belgian politics.

Three months on and Van Rompuy, 62, may not outwardly have changed much, but his title and the expectations surrounding him certainly have. In November he was chosen to be the first permanent president of the European Council, the body that represents the EU's 27 leaders, and on Thursday he will host those heads of state and government at an economic summit in Brussels -- the first such gathering he has chaired.

With Greece under extreme pressure with its mounting deficit and debt problems, and Portugal, Spain and Italy threatening to go the same way, the summit comes at a critical time. It is perhaps the most serious test of Europe's monetary union since the euro single currency was introduced 11 years ago.

"Cometh the hour, cometh the man", some might say, even if one wonders whether Van Rompuy would have been the first name on most European leaders' lips at such a pressing time.  But Van Rompuy it is, and he has his work cut out if he is going to seize the moment and tackle one of the EU's biggest problems.

Is Blair the man for the EU job?

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BLAIR/Once he was regarded as an obvious front-runner for the job of EU president, then it was pointed out that it was unlikely anyone would be chosen from a country that is not in the eurozone, not in the Schengen border-free area and which has an exemption to the bloc’s charter of fundamental rights.

Ah, but if you don’t choose someone with proven political clout to fight Europe’s corner, a G2 of China and the United States will have things all their own way soon, declared Foreign Secretary David Miliband over the weekend.

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