Charles Michel
Speaker at Copenhagen Democracy Summit 2024

Charles Michel was born in the Belgian town of Namur in 1975, when the European Union consisted of only nine member states. He grew up listening to the stories of his parents and grandparents, who had experienced the devastation of the Second World War and knew how precious peace and reconciliation are. Today he says: "I have never taken these for granted".

Charles Michel studied law at the University of Brussels. In 1998, he had the opportunity to take part in the Erasmus programme. He went to the Netherlands, and fell in love with Amsterdam. "I went there as a Belgian, and left as a committed European," he says. There, he made friends from all over the continent and understood that Europe is all about its values: living together peacefully, listening to others, and showing them respect - no matter the person’s colour, race or background. After his studies, he became a lawyer in Brussels. For Charles Michel, law has always been about people and protecting their rights and freedoms.

Passionate about politics from a young age, Charles Michel decided to run in the elections soon after university. He was elected as a member of the federal parliament in 1999. A year later, he became the Walloon Minister for Interior Affairs and Civil Service, and in 2007, Federal Minister for Development Cooperation. He played an important role in his political party, MR (Reformist Movement), as spokesperson (2004-2011) and finally leader of the party (2011-2014).

During this time, between 2006 and 2014, he was also Mayor of Wavre - a small town close to Brussels, where he lives with his partner Amélie and their children.

"For me, politics has always been about people. Being a mayor taught me to keep my feet on the ground. And my priorities straight", he says.

He is the father of two daughters and a son. "I am a very lucky man," he admits, "I learn a lot from them. And no matter how busy I am, I always make time for them."

Following the federal elections in June 2014, Charles Michel was involved in coalition negotiations. He became the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium in October 2014. His most challenging moment as Prime Minister came a year and a half year later, when on 22 March 2016, two deadly terror attacks struck Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station. "On that day, I realised what it means to serve your country. Your only concern is to protect your people," he says.

On 2 July 2019, EU leaders elected Charles Michel as President of the European Council. He took office on 1 December 2019.

On 24 March 2022, EU leaders re-elected Charles Michel as President of the European Council for a second term of two and a half years, from 1 June 2022 to 30 November 2024.

Talks at Copenhagen Democracy Summit 2024