When a conservative fellow writes his autobiography without depending on written notes or other documents as support, this exercise can be risky. Herman van Rompuy now also wants to turn anti-establishment? Following André Malraux he choses as title “Anti-mémoires”. Contrary to the image I have taken on 14.2.2019 on the book fair in Brussels, in the book Van Rompuy is opening up a bit, but just a bit.
The editorial support by Astrid Simonis seemingly was important in the easy read of these “end of life thoughts” of a heavily involved political figure in Belgium and Europe. If you count the pages without the 20 subtitle pages and transcripts of 2 speeches, it is less than 100 pages short. Full of well-known statements, but it is more the particular choice of those that makes the political man. Most surprising was the statement on page 118 “The principle quality in politics is trust”. On the same page he writes and cites Harry Truman “If you want a friend in politics, get a dog!” Now the puzzle is that the peace-building function of the European Union is building trust among nations. It seems to have failed in his experience in Belgium and apparently also in Europe according to him.
In the talk at the Book Fair in Brussels he agreed with the moderator that they did not want to sound too pessimistic this time. Many challenges ahead for Europe. Time for the next generation to get ready and find new solutions to old problems. However, attendance at the talk was spectacularly low.
My conclusion: Learning from experience is probably underrated in Europe.