“A man with bags full of experience”

Charles Michel, the new president of the European council, has relative youth on his side, but also bags full of experience in Belgian domestic politics.  He has been one of the figures to dominate the Francophone liberal landscape and served as party leader and cabinet minister before taking the highest office in 2014 at the head of an unusual coalition.

Politics courses through his veins.  He is the son of Louis Michel, a former European commission, cabinet minister and liberal leader.  He read law in Brussels and Amsterdam and assumed his first elected office at the age of 18 entering the provincial council of Walloon Brabant.

In 1999 Mr Michel is elected to parliament.  At 23 he is the youngest MP. A year later he becomes a minister in the Walloon regional administration combining home affairs and the civil service.  Later he serves as Belgian international development minister.

When the Francophone liberals lose the 2010 election Mr Michel challenges Didier Reynders for the party leadership and wins.  It’s a rivalry passed on from father to son and one that exists to this day.

In 2014 the cards land in a way not immediately conducive to a speedy government formation.  Talks between three Flemish parties, the nationalists, Christian democrats and liberals and Mr Michel’s Francophone liberals are a success and he becomes PM in an administration that has no majority in Francophonia.

At 38 he is Belgium’s youngest PM ever.  It’s a coalition not made in heaven, but one that manages to run Belgium, always a difficult task for politicians, for 4 and a half years until the Flemish nationalists leave the squad.


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