"A Europe strong in the world"

The European President, Belgium's Herman Van Rompuy, clarified his role during a first speech to a plenary session of the European Parliament.

Mr Van Rompuy, a former Belgian Premier, was both cautious and clear in his message.This was the first time that Mr Van Rompuy addressed the EP in his new job.

He was eager to bring Euro MPs up to date on the youngest, informal meeting of EU leaders in Brussels two weeks ago. Legally the EU President is not obliged to do so, as this was an informal gathering, but he believes this is a way of showing respect.

Mr Van Rompuy wants to give Euro MPs an opportunity to get to know him better too.

He was also keen to explain how he sees his new job. He spoke of co-operation, a common objective and avoiding conflicts of interest.

Mr Van Rompuy insisted that his goal was a Europe with a strong social model and a Union that is strong in the world.