On the skills of participants

Language skills are crucial in the European Council – my knowledge of German allowed me to build a much better contact with Merkel and later Schäuble in the ECOFIN. HoSG with less English skills have disadvantages in the informal exchange. 

(Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, 4 December 2015, Helsinki – recorded from remembrance, no exact quotes)

On the chairperson

Van Rompuy was an excellent chairman, very well prepared – only with a terrible schedule until very late in the nights.

(Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, 4 December 2015, Helsinki – recorded from remembrance, no exact quotes)

On personalities

Merkel is a very strong character in the European Council, she knows the big picture as well as the details. If not, she, as well as I did, went out to our sherpas immediately, to be prepared for the following negotiations. Other strong members of the institution from my point of view were for instance Rutte, Thorning-Schmidt, Cameron, or Juncker.

(Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, 4 December 2015, Helsinki – recorded from remembrance, no exact quotes)

On the style: ‘esprit de corps’

Reports about confrontations in the European Council are rather exaggerated – the other participants respect the speakers’ turn, although some might occupy themselves with their smartphones and tablets meanwhile.


(Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, 4 December 2015, Helsinki – recorded from remembrance, no exact quotes)

On alternatives

The Euro Summits are not as important for major decisions, but the Eurogroup meetings are. More difficult is it to make decisions in the ECOFIN – there are just too many participants.

Enhanced cooperation is a good pressurizing tool, but ultimately not constructive or going to be extended.

(Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland, 4 December 2015, Helsinki – recorded from remembrance, no exact quotes)