Herman Van Rompuy Elected EU President

European leaders have elected first full time European Union president. Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy is a low-key politician with a reputation for conciliation.

The choice of Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy as European Union president has drawn mixed reaction. The Obama administration saluted his appointment, saying it would make the European Union a stronger partner. But others are deeply disappointed that European leaders failed to choose a more forceful and high profile personality to represent the regional bloc on the world stage.

The same sentiment was expressed about the EU's new foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, the British trade commissioner to the European Union, who is little known outside her country, Voice of America reports.

It was also reported, Van Rompuy has led linguistically divided Belgium for almost a year, in sharp contrast to the 18 months of turmoil under his predecessor Yves Leterme, the man most likely to become Belgium's next premier.

"There is a new element of fragility. Mr. Leterme does not have the same confidence among French speakers as Mr. Van Rompuy," said Pascal Delwit, professor of politics at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

King Albert spoke early on Friday to Van Rompuy, who will take up his new post at the start of January, and then began receiving party chiefs to determine the government's future. Constitutional experts wrangled over whether Van Rompuy could simply resign like any other minister or whether his departure would spell the end of his government, a prospect likely to cause disputes about posts and policy, The Washington Post reports.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the appointments were a "milestone for Europe and for its role in the world".

She said she was looking forward to working closely with Mr Van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton on issues of mutual concern, including the Iranian nuclear debate, achieving stability in Afghanistan and promoting a peace agreement in the Middle East.

The President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, also praised the appointments, saying it would be "impossible to find a better choice than those personalities for the European Union leadership".

Mrs Merkel said of Mr Van Rompuy: "We got a candidate who brings consensus and whose political competence have long been tested and tried throughout his political career," BBC News reports.

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