Every month we present a surprise guest, a well-known person who gives us their point of view on current events: a breath of fresh air to broaden our horizons, inspire us and make us more aware of today's world. For our March edition we are pleased to welcome Herman van Rompuy, the first president of the European Council, who offers us a perspective on Europe's current challenges.

Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Policy Centre, is a Belgian and European politician, and a former prime minister of Belgium (2008-2009). In his capacity as president of the European Council (2009-2014), he played a key role in the EU's response to the financial crisis and in strengthening the framework of European economic governance.

As president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy helped steer the European Union through a period of great challenges: the sovereign debt crisis, threats to the survival of the single currency, international crises, and major debates on the way forward for European integration.

He chaired 28 European Council meetings, 5 informal meetings, and 11 Euro summits, striking a balance between his role as mediator and the need to provide impetus for the necessary reforms. He played an important role in the launch of financial assistance programmes (eight countries) and mechanisms (European Financial Stability Facility and European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism in 2010, European Stability Mechanism in 2012),  the banking union (Single Supervisory Mechanism and Single Resolution Mechanism, both active since 2014), the economic governance framework (European Semester, Six-pack, Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance, Two-pack), and the Union's 10-year economic strategy (Europe 2020).

He is the author of nine books, and in one of them, Europe in the storm: promise and prejudice (2014), he recounts his EU experience. He is also the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Charlemagne Prize (2014). He is the author of a large number of haiku and, thanks to his kindness, readers of EESC Info will have the opportunity to get to know some of them. (ehp)