La Treizième Étoile: 11/04/10 - 18/04/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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'Haiku Herman' van Rompuy launches his first poetry book entitled... 'Haiku'

Thursday, 15 April 2010
Arguably better-known for his haiku writing than his role as the first President of the European Council, the Belgian Herman van Rompuy today took time out of his busy schedule to unveil the first published collection of his poems at a book launch in Brussels.

The European Union's President Herman Van Rompuy signs a book collecting haiku he wrote, during a ceremony in Brussels (Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman)Mr Van Rompuy's love of the 17-syllable Japanese poems is well-known in Brussels and he famously showcased his love of the art in October 2009 when he closed a speech about the new tri-presidency of the European Council with the verse - Three waves rolling / together into the harbour / The trio is home.

After regularly publishing his latest creations on his personal blog, sufficient demand has led to a book deal in which a selection will appear in a hardback collection, simply entitled ‘Haiku’.

The 40 or so poems in the anthology, all written over the past six years, have been collated under chapter headings such as 'seasons', 'moments' and 'on the road’ and will be available for only a lucky few since only 2,500 copies of the book have been produced.

The poems have been published in his native Dutch and translated into English, French and Latin.

In the preface to the hardback, Mr Van Rompuy said he was drawn to haiku for its simplicity, compact use of language and its concentration on nature. "Our time is in need of simplicity," he said at the book’s launch, "moreover, haiku is brief, which is convenient for people who have no time to labour over long poems.

Haiku is an awakening of the spirit: away from technocratic rationality, away from the sophistication, attention-seeking and glitter,” he said, which rather make it sound like a welcome refuge from the world of Belgian and European Union politics.

Mr Van Rompuy was chosen to be president of the European Council at a summit held back in November 2009 and was hardly a prominent European personality before taking on the role and was seen as a surprise choice. He has been criticised for being 'boring', however his poems have attracted many fans across the world on the internet, including some masters of the haiku poem from its native Japan.

"I don't think I will set a trend" within the EU, he confessed somewhat realistically - although you never know, perhaps Jerzy Buzek will be encouraged to give it a go now!

Joking aside, it will now be interesting to see how José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, will respond to this latest spot of media spotlight for the Belgian, as ever since Mr Van Rompuy entered his new post a power-struggle has been fought over who is the ‘true public face of the EU’.

The FT’s Tony Barber speculates that it will “only [be] a matter of time before we stumble across Mr Barroso at Place Luxembourg, strumming an acoustic guitar or dabbing at a watercolour of the European Parliament”, and while that would be a fabulous draw for journalists and a strong and hilarious candidate for most popular EU-related video on YouTube, it would seem highly unlikely.

Although one of his spokesmen has said “President Barroso’s first love has always been folk music, spoken-word poetry and painting. He just does all the other stuff to the pay the bills”…

Should you want to purchase a copy of the 128-page collection, it is priced at €16.95 and available from

Holding back the tears: Buzek leads memorial for Polish plane crash victims

Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Jerzy Buzek, the Polish president of the European Parliament, led an emotionally charged yet dignified ceremony in the Brussels hemicycle this afternoon to honour the 96 victims of last Saturday's plane crash, many of whom he knew personally.

Jerzy Buzek leads the ceremony in Brussels today (Photo: European Parliament)Fighting back the tears and addressing the chamber packed with MEPs and parliamentary staff Mr Buzek said "the messages of support I have received have given me and my country some strength and comfort".

After paying tribute to the victims, he also praised Europe’s "Russian friends" for their response to the disaster. "History has dramatically come full circle,” he said, “we have been touched by the Russian reaction, full of dignity and understanding. We believe it will help us to reconcile our continent in both historical truth and mutual trust and respect.

A moment's silence was observed before the names of all 96 victims were read out and a white rose placed in their memory.

Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who had previously served in a government headed by Mr Buzek during his term as Poland's Prime Minister, and his wife Maria died in the plane crash which happened in the early hours of Saturday morning near Smolensk in Western Russia.

18 leading Polish members of parliament were among the victims of the crash as well as the president of the Polish national bank Slawomir Skrzypek, the Army’s chief of staff, the deputy foreign minister and deputy speaker of the Polish parliament.

The Polish delegation had been en route to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre when 22,000 Polish officers were killed by the NKVD, Stalin's Soviet secret police, in 1940.

Former Polish president Lech Walesa said the crash was a "second disaster after Katyn."

Russian investigators believe pilot error was to blame for the crash but there has been speculation in Poland and elsewhere that the plane's pilots may have felt under pressure to land without delay, in order for their passengers to attend the Katyn memorial service on time. The plane finally hit treetops on its fourth attempt to land.

Reflecting on the grief on show in Brussels this afternoon, Mr Buzek reminded us that "in unity lies strength - we are stronger when we are united".

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.