Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tirade against 'damp rag' EU president shocks MEPs


Nigel Farage: "You have all the charisma of a damp rag"

A British Eurosceptic MEP has unleashed a volley of insults against the President of the European Council.

Nigel Farage, who leads UK Independence Party (UKIP) MEPS in the European parliament, said Herman Van Rompuy had "the charisma of a damp rag".

He compared the former Belgian prime minister to a "low-grade bank clerk" and said he came from a "non-country".

The attack, which stunned the chamber, came as Mr Van Rompuy made his maiden appearance in parliament in Brussels.

"I don't want to be rude," Mr Farage began, before launching into a personal attack lasting several minutes.

"Who are you? I'd never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you," Mr Farage thundered, as noisy disapproval at his intervention in the chamber rose.

Herman van Rompuy
There was one contribution that I can only hold in contempt, but I'm not going to comment further
Herman Van Rompuy, president of European Council

'Competent and dangerous'

"Oh, I know democracy is not popular with you lot," he said, addressing the members of parliament as they voiced their surprise.

Mr Farage - known for his outspoken interventions - did, however, admit that he thought Mr Van Rompuy was "competent and capable", adding that this made him "dangerous".

"I have no doubt that your intention is to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and of European nation states," he said.

Mr Farage's party, UKIP, campaigns for the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union. It has 13 representatives in the European parliament.

"You seem to have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states," Mr Farage continued, adding: "Perhaps that's because you come from Belgium, which is pretty much a non-country."


Mr Van Rompuy, 62, was chosen unanimously by the governments of the EU's 27 member states to take on the role of the first permanent European Council president.

Described as camera-shy and sometimes given the nickname the "grey mouse", he is seen as a coalition builder, credited for steering linguistically divided Belgium out of crisis.

In a typically low-key response to the comments, Mr Van Rompuy said: "There was one contribution that I can only hold in contempt, but I'm not going to comment further."

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