With the appointment of Herman Achille van Rompuy as our new President of the European Council, we entered a new era. His second name promises a lot. It was “easily” done on a Thursday evening in Brussels the 19th of November. It was a rainy day, but with a very special feeling. The news rushed all over the Europe and I expect all over the world: Europe has chosen his first president.
Does Europe now really exist? Did we take a major step in self awareness, strength, confidence and identity? Or was his appointment just a minor step, an administrative one, fake, virtual? Only time will tell. But I myself guess this is a big step for Europe. And I do hope also for public management and governance in Europe. A new challenge, incentive and chance for risk management as critical factor and enabler. Why is his appointment so important? I give you some thoughts.
The appointment of Van Rompuy is in my view a choice for a president, who has respect and understanding for the interests of all member states of Europe. In fact he is, after Tom Wustenberghs, the PRIMO Europe president, the second Flemish European president. It is in my view the best choice regarding the state of Europe (not ‘as one’ but still on its way towards a united co-federation). Van Rompuy seems to be capable to handle with accuracy of and navigate between those interests and to establish the common awareness of Europe. This by his believe that only through diplomacy and compromising there is a European way forward. I think, and I really do hope that he will be able to show the member states that this awareness will and can have its pay-off in the very near future.
The fact that he is a Belgian Flemish politician was on beforehand almost conditionally. It is no coincidence that also Luc VandenBrande of the Committee of the Regions and Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee are so successful as natural international leaders. What is the secret? Style, politeness, empathy, passion, able to listen, open, inviting, analytic, charming. He is a diplomat, a mediator and a skilled negotiator. I truly congratulate all my Flemish colleagues in the network of UDITE and PRIMO with the appointment of Van Rompuy. They can feel proud. “Flemish” is a competence now.
We will need this competence. In my view Europe is still in some state of crisis. To be frank, a true state of crisis. Still it is not more than an economic entity, a free trade zone, the Euro or an easy crossing of our borders or a very efficient system to deal with national interests. Yes we did achieve quite something last years, but we still have a long way to go. Are we, with the appointment of Van Rompuy, on the threshold of something new? Are we on our way to a system where we really are going to deal with European interests?
The last one is why also PRIMO Europe has been founded. To establish, promote a common ground for good public governance. With our founding partner UDITE, we worked very hard to elaborate and promote this principle. As a true European organisation. Our principle is pure, simple and crystal clear: we want to contribute to a better Europe by introducing innovative elements of public management and governance. And by this creative public values. Don’t we?
We offer unique knowledge and experience, collected from the basis of Europe, the local communities, their public leaders, scientists, experts, CEO’s and opinion leaders. Yes, an excellent network. With all this we can contribute to better European decisions.
There is new business to come. So far the scope of the council was based on the subsidiary principles. To put it simple: what could be done on the countries should be done within and by the member states.
With the appointment of Van Rompuy however, I expect this principle to move more and more to the background. Bit by bit, step by step, but it will happen. Why? Because the common awareness will also lead to common approaches and as a result to common solutions. Once we experienced this we want more.
PRIMO in my view can deliver support on both levels: dissemination of experiences between the member states (with the acknowledgement and acceptance of cultural differences) and secondly to advice on European plans and projects, especially there where the knowledge of managers of the public entities is a critical factor for success. Yes, we can support the establishment of a direct link between European Council and local managers and leaders. So, let us prepare for a new European Public Management approach. Short lines and direct links are preferred then.
PRIMO Europe’s first advice comes directly from its survey. We did some excellent research last year. We focused on the emerging public risks. Maybe this common knowledge about main risks should be on the political agenda of the European Council. Good risk management on European policies is crucial. Yes, it is. Our approach of risk management is holistic (necessary for European policies) and is focused on political success and reaching managerial targets. Our knowledge is filtered, percolated, condensed, experienced and felt by our colleagues, who are “with their feet in the mud”. They know where they talk about. They work closely with citizens and all kind of local organisations and companies. This knowledge comes indirectly from more than 15.000 managers and public leaders. Yes, we have something to offer. Van Rompuy should in fact be the first in the new government who should take notice of our risk survey.
Van Rompuy and his council are, like we, in the very heart of European society. Like him we want to contribute to good public management and governance and above all to a safe and peaceful Europe, where it is worth living. So, let us take the next step. Let us bring forward to the European Council what we are, what we know and what we do. With two Flemish presidents in charge there is a new beckoning perspective.
Ir. Jack P. Kruf
City manager of Roosendaal, The Netherlands
Founding President of PRIMO Europe