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Last year, when he was just plain old prime minister of Belgium, Herman Van Rompuy spent his summer holiday touring Australia in a camper van. This year the new president of the European council opted for another location rarely frequented by political leaders: the Belgian coast. Everything about Van Rompuy is low key. Known as the “grey mouse” of Belgian politics, he is a slight, professorial figure with a penchant for religious philosophy and haiku. But, eight months into his job, there is a growing consensus that his style is working.

Much of Van Rompuy’s time is taken up…

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