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(B) Empirical Evaluation

When the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, Herman van

Rompuy stood as the first full-time President of the European

Council. His terms coincided with the outbreak, the containment,

and management of the Euro-debt crisis. It is not possible to assess

the implementation of the innovative institutional design of the

Treaty of Lisbon without taking into account van Rompuy’s

performance in handling the Euro-debt crisis. Praises outweigh

criticisms in assessments of van Rompuy’s performance in defining

and carrying out the role the European Council President. The

view is widely-held that had the EU not created this position in

time, and had the person filling the job not been van Rompuy, the

Euro-debt crisis would have been much more serious. Many factors

contributed to van Rompuy’s success as the European Council

President. Apart from his multilingual skills and expertise in

economics, the experience of having served as prime minister in a

society as fractured as Belgium’s gave heads of state and

government confidence

that he would serve well in the job

(Barber, 2010: 55; Chopin & Lefebvre, 2010; Dinan, 2013: 1266;

Howorth, 2011: 10-16).

Given the composition of the European Council and the way

the institution operates, it is hardly surprising that whoever serves

as the European Council President would have the tendency to

“serve the soup to larger Member States” (“The intergovernmental

drift,” 2014). An advisor of van Rompuy, Richard Corbett,

described the job of cajoling 28 heads of state and government into

consensus as equivalent to “herding cats” (European Policy Centre,

2011). That the stronger, bigger, and more willful cats could

sometimes end up leading the herder should not come as a surprise,

since while “nominally equal, some members of the European

Council are more equal than others” (Dinan, 2013: 1260). This

explains why, after seeing how van Rompuy performed as the

European Council President, Jean-Claude Juncker, who competed

for the position with van Rompuy in 2009, breathed a sigh of relief