Van Rompuy Proves the Value of Words in LSE Speech

By Andrew Ivey | Speeches

Sep 08
Herman Van Rompuy speech

Herman Van Rompuy's speech at the LSE

In the week that Germany’s Constitutional Court gave its verdict on the EU bailout, Herman Van Rompuy’s speech at the London School of Economics (LSE) yesterday was well-timed.

Well-timed and well-executed. This was a speech that laid out the views of the President of the European Council to an appreciative audience of economists and political scientists.

His introduction was a classic case of setting the scene, the context and his own expertise in the field.

When I studied economics myself, more than forty years ago, I was much taken by Ralf Dahrendorf–who later was a famous LSE director and played so many roles in British, German and European society.

Ah yes, Ralf Dahrendorf. And his speech continued in such a rich vein, exploring the economic problems since the Lehman Brothers bank collapse of 2008, sovereign debt and indebtedness in general. Much of this was pretty complex to a layman. But he had the right audience at the LSE.

Clearly his speech also focused on the future of the Eurozone, the Euro itself and the EU. Without tub-thumping he re-asserted his confidence in their respective futures:

Seen in the light of history, the European Union is too precious an achievement to be put in jeopardy! I say this in a calm and determined way: this generation in politics will do, what must be done.

He’s not English, yet the language in his speech was choice and vivid. His LSE audience was treated to:

The political and economic costs of going back are mind-boggling.


Most urgent is to draw the lessons from the recent crisis–from the global roller-coaster which started 4 years ago, and reached a decisive turn in Europe in early 2010 when the Greek problem
exploded upon the stage.

Here was a marvelous metaphor to conjure up the economic highs and lows of the past four years…except that it’s been mainly a descent since 2007.

And was there some forethought in the word link of the “Greek problem” and “the stage”? I think so. But the speaker was too polite to mention either Greek tragedies, Greek choruses, siren voices or Herculean efforts.

Enough. This was a worthy speech from a speaker who’s often overlooked in the drama that is Eurozone realpolitik.

Yes, Please

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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+

  • C says:

    I was at this talk. I was completely under-whelmed by his performance. Not only did he avoid answering the toughest question asked of him–whether he planned to recommend the use of Eurobonds or not–his speech reflected and was grounded in the same set of conservative concepts and ideologies that have helped cause the financial crisis in the first place. He was keen to lecture how important it was that the toughest decisions must be made at the “highest levels,” yet not once did he offer any reflections on the growing levels of popular discontent with the Euro experiment in places like Greece and Spain. Also, on the one hand he wanted to draw a parallel between today and the events of the 30s, but when he was reminded by someone in the audience that the 30s led to fascism, he quickly said that the crisis today is not nearly as bad as the 30s. Overall, like this blog suggests, he demonstrated the same measured form of English prose–read: lack of vision–that continues to plague the leaders of the EU.

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