Vladimir Van Rompuy, the president of the European council, pictured in 2009, had been chairing the EU summit that day
The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, has been forced into seclusion following the emergence of a television clip showing him bumping into the French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, while riding in a horse carriage.
Vladimir Van Rompuy, the president of the European council, was chairing the European council meeting at the time.
The incident took place on the eve of Michel’s inauguration as prime minister, after François Hollande decided not to contest the role.
On Friday, the European commission announced that Philippe would continue as prime minister while Van Rompuy was in seclusion.
In the clip, shared widely on social media, Van Rompuy (above) is seen pulling up his arm before commencing to drive, before being bumped into by Philippe (below).
Valérie Pécresse (@val_p_c) pic.twitter.com/7nbFnNlNHb
Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) Or as I prefer to call it: #AtqwIrrVuurmen Uit de #JeanClaude? #VJ140 ✔️
After a couple of failed attempts to prevent the clip being spread around Europe on Thursday, Michel made a statement on Friday in which he said that after watching the video he had decided to give Van Rompuy a 15-day suspension.
He said: “As [the meeting] was one in which Michel is making his debut and for which the number of staff was limited, the charges made by Jean-Claude Juncker who was there as head of the European commission, I believe that the allegations made there are groundless. Jean-Claude Juncker accepts these conclusions.
“Therefore, in view of the views I had taken about the facts said in the video, I made the decision to give Mr Van Rompuy a 15-day suspension without pay.
“This means that Mr Van Rompuy will be apart from the other (officials) involved for that period.”
Although Van Rompuy is chairing the EU summit on Friday, Juncker will formally take over from him. The chairman’s duties will now fall to Van Rompuy, along with portfolios such as the European council’s chief advisor – the official who works for the bloc’s 28 presidents and prime ministers.
The incident happened on Thursday 15 September, a day Michel was inaugurated as the prime minister after François Hollande decided not to contest the role. Michel, 38, was the youngest leader of a major member state since the second world war.