Farage rant makes Van Rompuy hero - in Belgium

Mar 10, 2010
Tim Edwards

‘Damp rag’ EU president Herman Van Rompuy says he pities Nigel Farage for his outburst

EU president Herman Van Rompuy has said he feels sorry for Nigel Farage, the Eurosceptic MEP who called him a "damp rag" during a blistering rant in the European parliament last month.

And Van Rompuy, who was once the prime minister of Belgium, told the BBC he is enjoying the best approval ratings of his career in his native land thanks to Farage's outburst - presumably because the UK Independence Party MEP also accused Belgium of being a "non-country".

"I found it so ridiculous that I was not even really angry," said Van Rompuy, who is not new to this kind of criticism, having been widely written off as a faceless bureaucrat by the British press after taking up his post in December 2009. "I feel pity for that kind of behaviour and that kind of man, that's all."

Farage was fined €3,000 for his rant after refusing to apologise to Van Rompuy. But a far greater punishment may be the realisation that his outburst has lent a certain amount of recognition to the man he called a "low-grade bankclerk".

Quite apart from the popularity of YouTube videos (see above) of Van Rompuy tutting as Farage lays into him, which have garnered at least 400,000 visits, the EU president tells the BBC: "I can assure you that I am now at the height of my popularity in Flanders, after the incident in the European Parliament.

"A lot of people feel themselves confident when they are governed by people who don't get nervous and angry at every incident."

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