Charles Michel

Last updated

Charles Michel
Charles Michel (49467991288).jpg
Official portrait, 2019
President of the European Council
Assumed office
1 December 2019
Alma mater Université libre de Bruxelles
University of Amsterdam

Charles Michel (French:  [ʃaʁl miʃɛl] ; 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 (age 31), 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 1845.

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. [1] 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. [2] [3]

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. [4] 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. [5]

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. [6]

Prime Minister of Belgium

Michel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, 31 January 2018 Vladimir Putin and Charles Michel (2018-01-31) 01.jpg
Michel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, 31 January 2018

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, and was only the second Francophone liberal to become Prime Minister. [7] [8]

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

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. [9] [10] [11] 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. [12] He remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister during the 2019 federal election, and the ensuing coalition negotiations.

President of the European Council

Michel meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden, June 2021 P20210615AS-0600 (51267682502).jpg
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. [13]

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, [14] 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. [15]

Michel meeting in Baku with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, July 2021 Ilham Aliyev and President of European Council Charles Michel had joint working dinner, July 2021 04.jpg
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. [16]

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. [17] 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. [17] Von der Leyen called the way France was treated "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation. [18] The EU called the way France was treated "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation. [19] [20] Michel denounced a "lack of transparency and loyalty" by the United States. [21]

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. [22]

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, sanctions against Russia also included asset freezes on the Russian Central Bank, [23] which holds $630 billion in foreign-exchange reserves, [24] to prevent it from offsetting the impact of sanctions. [25] 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. [26]

Crisis in Georgia

President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili, Maia Sandu, Volodymyr Zelensky and Charles Michel during the 2021 Batumi Conference. Batumi International Conference, on 19 July 2021 05 (cropped).jpg
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. [27] 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. [27]

In March 2021, Michel visited Georgia and participated in talks between Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the opposition. [28] 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. [29] Michel also met Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels later that month, [28] 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. [28] The agreement was welcomed as a success by the international community [30] and local civil society organizations such as the Europe-Georgia Institute, [31] and Michel hailed the agreement as being in "a truly European spirit" that takes Georgia towards a "Euro-Atlantic future." [28] Later the largest opposition party in Tbilisi did not accept the agreement and the ruling party withdrew from it. [22]


Personal life

Michel and his partner Amélie 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. [33]


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  1. Dunst, Charles (21 December 2018). "Charles Michel to head Belgian caretaker government – POLITICO". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  2. "Charles Michel takes over from Donald Tusk as President of the European Council". General Secretariat of the Council. Press release. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. @eucopresident (29 November 2019). "It's time: I am handing over the #EUCO bell & this Twitter account to my friend @CharlesMichel. Best wishes, Mr President! Thank you all for accompanying me over the last 5 years!!Yd78Cd Don't worry, I will continue tweeting on @donaldtusk and @donaldtuskEPP" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  4. "Charles Michel officiellement candidat à la présidence du MR". Le Vif. 13 December 2010.
  5. "20 March 2008 – Royal Orders. Government – Dismissals – Appointments" (PDF) (in Dutch and French). The Belgian Official Journal. 21 March 2008. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  6. "Michel vs. Reynders: waarom de MR elke keer wat anders zegt". De Morgen. 27 June 2014.
  7. "Dit waren de jongste en de oudste eerste ministers van ons land". Het Belang van Limburg. 8 October 2014
  8. "BIOGRAFIE. Charles Michel wordt jongste premier uit Belgische geschiedenis". De Standaard. 7 October 2014
  9. "Charles Michel confirme qu'il ira à Marrakech: "Je prends acte que la N-VA quitte la majorité suédoise"". Le Soir (in French). 8 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  10. "Michel zet minderheidsregering zonder N-VA in de steigers". De Tijd (in Dutch). 8 December 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  11. News, Flanders (8 December 2018). "Road to minority government being paved". Retrieved 8 December 2018.{{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  12. "Koning zet consultaties ook morgen nog verder: geen gesprek met Vlaams Belang". Het Laatste Nieuws (in Dutch). 20 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  13. Europese knoop ontward: Charles Michel wordt voorzitter van de Europese Raad
  14. "Greek PM: "It is not possible for the EU to adopt a different stance on Belarus and another on Turkey"". Greek City Times. 20 August 2020.
  15. "As Greece-Turkey relations worsen, EU calls for de-escalation". The Week. 17 August 2020.
  16. "Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes: How the world reacted". Archived from the original on 27 September 2020.
  17. 1 2 "Explainer: Why is a submarine deal sparking a diplomatic crisis?".
  18. "EU chief: Treatment of France 'not acceptable'". CNN. 20 September 2021.
  19. "Aukus row: EU officials demand apology from Australia over France's treatment before trade talks". The Guardian. 21 September 2021.
  20. "Sous-marins australiens : Ursula von der Leyen juge 'inacceptable' la façon dont la France a été traitée" [Australian submarines: Ursula von der Leyen considers the way France has been treated "unacceptable"]. Le Monde (in French). 19 September 2021. Archived from the original on 20 September 2021.
  21. "EU chief Michel denounces 'lack of loyalty' by US". France24 . 20 September 2021. Archived from the original on 20 September 2021.
  22. 1 2 Neukirch, Ralf (12 January 2022). "This man torpedoed Ursula von der Leyen - why?". Der Spiegel (in German). Spiegel Online.
  23. Kirschenbaum, J. (16 May 2022). "Now is not the time to confiscate Russia's central bank reserves". Bruegel .
  24. Davidson, Kate; Weaver, Aubree Eliza (28 February 2022). "The West declares economic war on Russia". Politico . Archived from the original on 1 March 2022.
  25. Pop, Valentina (25 February 2022). "EU leaders agree more Russia sanctions, but save some for later". Financial Times . Archived from the original on 26 February 2022.
  26. "Germany open to Russian Central Bank asset seizure to finance Ukraine's recovery". Euractiv. 17 May 2022.
  27. 1 2 EU brokers deal to end political crisis in Georgia
  28. 1 2 3 4 The political crisis is over, says President Michel in Georgia
  29. President Michel Appoints Envoy to Mediate Georgia Crisis Talks
  30. 'Truly European way of resolving crisis': foreign diplomats welcome agreement reached between political parties in Georgia
  31. EGI Statement, April 19, 2021
  32. "УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №394/2021". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  33. Barbara Moens (August 20, 2020), Charles Michel postpones wedding to avoid quarantine Politico Europe .
  34. Michiels, Alix; Van Hecke, Robert (2016). "Un enfant trouvé dans la généalogie de notre premier ministre à Anvers en 1834". GéniWal (69): 8–17. Retrieved 11 February 2017.[ permanent dead link ]
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Development Cooperation
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the European Council
Party political offices
Preceded by President of the Reformist Movement
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Reformist Movement
Succeeded by