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Charles Michel
Charles Michel (49467991288).jpg
Official portrait, 2019
President of the European Council
Assumed office
1 December 2019
Preceded by Donald Tusk
President of the Euro Summit
Assumed office
1 December 2019
Preceded by Donald Tusk
Prime Minister of Belgium
In office
11 October 2014 – 27 October 2019
Monarch Philippe
Deputy Jan Jambon
Kris Peeters
Koen Geens
Didier Reynders
Alexander De Croo
Preceded by Elio Di Rupo
Succeeded by Sophie Wilmès
President of the Reformist Movement
In office
18 February 2019 – 29 November 2019
Preceded by Olivier Chastel
Succeeded by Georges-Louis Bouchez
In office
14 February 2011 – 10 October 2014
Preceded by Didier Reynders
Succeeded by Olivier Chastel
Minister of Development Cooperation
In office
21 December 2007 – 14 February 2011
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt
Yves Leterme
Herman Van Rompuy
Preceded by Armand De Decker
Succeeded by Olivier Chastel
Personal details
Born
Charles Yves Jean Ghislaine Michel

(1975-12-21) 21 December 1975 (age 48)
Namur, Wallonia, Belgium
Political party Reformist Movement
Other political
affiliations
ALDE Party
Spouse Amélie Derbaudrenghien
Children 3
Parent
  • Louis Michel (father)
Alma mater Université libre de Bruxelles
University of Amsterdamˈ

Charles Michel (French: [ʃaʁl mi'ʃɛl]; born 21 December 1975) is a Belgian politician serving as the president of the European Council since 2019. He previously served as the prime minister of Belgium between 2014 and 2019.

Michel became the minister of development cooperation in 2007 at age thirty-one, and remained in this position until elected the leader of the Francophone liberal Reformist Movement (MR) in February 2011. He led MR to the 2014 federal election, where they emerged as the third-largest party in the Chamber of Representatives. After coalition negotiations, Michel was confirmed as Prime Minister of a MR-N-VA-OVLD-CD&V government. He was sworn in on 11 October 2014, becoming the youngest Belgian prime minister since Jean-Baptiste Nothomb in 1841.

In December 2018, the government collapsed following internal disagreements over the handling of the Global Compact for Migration, with the N-VA withdrawing from the cabinet. Michel subsequently tendered his resignation and remained in office in a caretaker capacity. At the 2019 federal election shortly afterwards, MR lost a number of seats, although Michel remained in office as interim prime minister during coalition negotiations. Weeks after the federal election, on 2 July 2019, the European Council voted to appoint Michel as its new president. He took over from Donald Tusk at a ceremony on 29 November 2019, formally beginning his term on 1 December 2019. He is pursuing a liberal economic policy combining privatization of public services, cuts in public spending, pension reform and deregulation of the labor market.

Early life and education

Charles Michel was born in Namur, Wallonia, on 21 December 1975. He is the son of Louis Michel, a former European Commissioner, and Martine Pierre.

Michel began his political career at the age of 16 when he joined the Young Liberal Reformers of Jodoigne (Jeunes Réformateurs Libéraux de Jodoigne), affiliated to the MR. In 1994, at the age of 18, he was elected provincial councilor in Walloon Brabant. He graduated in law at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the University of Amsterdam in 1998, after which he became lawyer at the Brussels Bar. He is fluent in Dutch and English in addition to his native French.

Early political career

Shortly after finishing university, while his father was Belgium's Minister of Home Affairs, Michel was elected to the federal Chamber of Representatives in 1999 (age 23), representing Walloon Brabant, a stronghold of the liberal MR.

In 2000, he became Minister of Home Affairs in the Walloon Government aged 25, making him the youngest regional minister in Belgian history. At the same time, his father was minister of Home Affairs at the national level. At the local level, he was elected city councillor in Wavre in 2000, and in 2006 became mayor of the city.

In December 2007, Michel became the Minister of Development Cooperation in the Verhofstadt III Government and subsequently in the Leterme I, Van Rompuy I and Leterme II governments.

After poor results in the 2009 regional elections, Michel was part of a group demanding the MR leader Didier Reynders resign. After the party suffered further losses in the 2010 federal election, Reynders resigned, and Michel announced his candidacy to replace him. In January 2011, he was elected President of MR, and resigned from the cabinet.

Prime Minister of Belgium

After the 2014 federal election, Michel became co-formateur in the ensuing coalition negotiations. Initially, CD&V Leader Kris Peeters was expected to be Prime Minister. However CD&V also insisted on Marianne Thyssen being appointed as European Commissioner, and Michel's MR refused to allow the two most important political posts to be held by a single party.

Ultimately, the parties agreed to appoint Thyssen as European Commissioner, with an understanding that the prime ministership would go to either MR or OVLD. As Michel was serving as co-formateur, he quickly won internal support from other parties to lead the next government. On 7 October 2014, an overall agreement was reached between the four parties to form a new government, with Michel proposed as Prime Minister, and Peeters as one of four Deputy Prime Ministers. Michel became the youngest Belgian Prime Minister in 173 years since Jean-Baptiste Nothomb in 1841, and was only the second Francophone liberal to become Prime Minister.

Secretary Kerry and Belgian Prime Minister Michel Deliver Statements to the Media in Brussels (26025142245)
Michel and United States Secretary of State John Kerry, 25 March 2016

In the Ministry of Security and the Interior, many tasks of the federal police are being privatized (securing public buildings, supervising detainees, etc.), while the departments concerned with international crime (especially computer and financial crime) are being decentralized. In defence, while the budget for investment in equipment has been increased at the request of NATO, the number of personnel is to be reduced by 19.5 per cent. Federal cultural and scientific institutions have been hit by budget cuts of 20 per cent. The budget allocated to the functioning of the judiciary is also depleted, leading Belgium's highest magistrate to accuse the "logic of economy" of being responsible for a "pathology of the entire judicial system that endangers the rule of law."

On January 1, 2016, the tax shift began to take effect. This includes increasing the take-home pay of the lowest income earners through a decrease in social security contributions. The expected increase is €80 net for an employee earning €1,500; €70 for those earning €2,100; and €60 for those earning €2,800. Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt says "the tax shift will be a tax cut", although the value-added tax on electricity will rise from 6% to the standard rate of 21% and excise duties on alcohol, diesel, tobacco and soft drinks will increase. A liberal orientation was also adopted in the area of pensions (Bacquelaine law, which reduced the pensions of the formerly unemployed) and labour law (Peeters law, which deregulated the use of overtime, part-time contracts and flexible hours).

In December 2018, a political crisis emerged over whether to sign the Global Compact for Migration. Michel's coalition partner N-VA, which originally supported the Compact, reversed course to oppose it whereas the other three parties continued to support it. Michel subsequently announced the formation of a minority government, with CD&V, MR and OVLD backing the compact.

On 18 December, he presented his government's resignation to the King. The King accepted Michel's resignation on 21 December after consulting party leaders. He remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister during the 2019 federal election, and the ensuing coalition negotiations.

President of the European Council

P20210615AS-0600 (51267682502)
Michel meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden, June 2021

On 2 July 2019, Michel was elected President of the European Council, one of the most prominent leadership positions of the European Union.

On 20 July 2020, Michel announced a historical deal on the recovery package Next Generation EU and the EU 2021–2027 budget to support member states hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August 2020, Michel expressed "full solidarity" with Greece and Cyprus in their conflict with Turkey, which has occupied the northern part of Cyprus since July 1974. The Aegean dispute between Turkey and Greece escalated when Ankara resumed gas exploration in contested areas of the eastern Mediterranean.

Ilham Aliyev and President of European Council Charles Michel had joint working dinner, July 2021 04
Michel meeting in Baku with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, July 2021

On 27 September 2020, Michel expressed deep concern over the escalation of hostilities in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately halt fighting and progress towards a peaceful resolution.

Зустріч Президента України Володимира Зеленського та Президента Європейської ради Шарля Мішеля у Києві 33
Michel meeting in Kyiv with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, April 2022
Pääministeri tapasi Eurooppa-neuvoston puheenjohtajan Helsingissä 25.5. (52098728061)
Michel meeting in Helsinki with the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, May 2022

After French-U.S. and French-Australia relations suffered a period of tension in September 2021 due to fallout from the AUKUS defense pact between the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia. The security pact is directed at countering Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region. As part of the agreement, the U.S. agreed to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. After entering into AUKUS, the Australian government canceled an agreement that it had made with France for the provision of French conventionally powered submarines. Von der Leyen called the way France was treated "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation. The EU called the way France was treated "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation. Michel denounced a "lack of transparency and loyalty" by the United States.

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Michel with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and other leaders at the International Conference on Development and Migration in Rome, 23 July 2023

During his tenure, there were internal expressions of discontent, including from a Prime Minister and diplomats from different EU countries to Michel's administration. The EU summits, for which he is responsible as president, were criticized for being not well organized. During his tenure, he ignored the decisions of the European Commission instead of remaining solution-oriented like his predecessors in office. A diplomatic fauxpas known as the "Sofagate" was described as a symbol of the strained working relationship between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Michel.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, sanctions against Russia also included asset freezes on the Russian Central Bank, which holds $630 billion in foreign-exchange reserves, to prevent it from offsetting the impact of sanctions. On 5 May, Charles Michel said: "I am absolutely convinced that this is extremely important not only to freeze assets but also to make possible to confiscate it, to make it available for the rebuilding" of Ukraine.

In September 2022, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at his palace in Jeddah to discuss strengthening cooperation between the EU and Saudi Arabia.

P061521-785055
Michel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, 29 June 2023

In February 2023, Michel met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa to normalize EU-Ethiopia relations that had been damaged by the Tigray War.

In September 2023, Michel condemned Azerbaijan's offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh and urged the country to immediately stop its military activities and return to dialogue. In October, he said that Russia "betrayed the Armenian people" after Azerbaijan regained control of the disputed zone from Armenian separatists.

Crisis in Georgia

Batumi International Conference, on 19 July 2021 05 (cropped)
President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili, Maia Sandu, Volodymyr Zelensky and Charles Michel during the 2021 Batumi Conference.

Following the 2020 Georgian parliamentary election, Georgia experienced a political crisis. The ruling Georgian Dream party was deemed the winner, but the opposition parties said that the election was marred by irregularities and violations, they boycotted the results of the elections and refused to enter the parliament. After Georgian authorities arrested opposition politician Nika Melia, the chairman of the opposition United National Movement (UNM), the country's prime minister resigned and mass street protests ensued.

In March 2021, Michel visited Georgia and participated in talks between Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the opposition. Michel and the EU's High Representative Josep Borrell appointed Swedish diplomat Christian Danielsson as the EU envoy to mediate political crisis talks in the country. Michel also met Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels later that month, and met political leaders in Tbilisi in April 2021, after an agreement was signed after several weeks of mediation brokered by Michel and the EU. The agreement was welcomed as a success by the international community and local civil society organizations such as the Europe-Georgia Institute, and Michel hailed the agreement as being in "a truly European spirit" that takes Georgia towards a "Euro-Atlantic future." Later the largest opposition party in Tbilisi did not accept the agreement and the ruling party withdrew from it.

Honours

  • Grand Officer in the Order of Leopold (21 May 2014)
  • Minister of State (31 October 2019)
  • Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, 1st class (2021)

Personal life

Michel and his wife Amélie Derbaudrenghien Michel (née Derbaudrenghien) have two children. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple postponed their wedding, which was supposed to take place in France in August 2020, to avoid quarantine upon return to Belgium. In October 2021, Derbaudrenghien Michel and Michel's spokesman confirmed that the couple discreetly married over the summer of 2021 with a small celebration.

Michel also has a son from a previous relationship.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Charles Michel para niños

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