In July 2019, Charles Michel was elected by the European Council as its third permanent President. He took over the post on 1 December, chairing his first European Council meeting on 12-13 December. Analysts often assess the performance of a political leader after his or her first 100 days in office. While it is too early to make an in-depth analysis comparing the three office-holders, now – after just over 100 days and in the light of the current context of the COVID-19 crisis – could be a good time to recap on the role of the President of the European Council and take stock of Charles Michel’s activities to date.
Although the European Council has no Treaty-based crisis-management role, its first two Presidents seem to be remembered – and their terms in office defined – by the crises through which they had to steer the EU. Herman Van Rompuy had to face the economic and financial crisis and Donald Tusk was confronted by the migration crisis. Just like his predecessors, Charles Michel is facing a substantial crisis at the very beginning of his mandate; the way he manages the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to shape the approach and substance of his first mandate at the helm of the European Council (see EPRS: The European Council as COVID-19 crisis manager: A comparison with previous crises). Before the COVID-19 outbreak reached the EU, Charles Michel was already starting to put his own stamp on the office of President, carrying out the tasks envisaged for this office in the Treaties.