akarelThe beginning of this week was tinged with great sadness following the news of the sudden death of Karel Van Miert, who fell from a ladder in his beloved garden on Monday.  He belonged to a fine Belgian tradition of polyglot charismatic politicians equally at home in both domestic and European politics. There is an obituary of him here. Much has already been said and written about his career and about his personal integrity and political courage. It is largely forgotten now, but in the dark days of 1999, when the Santer Commission (of which Van Miert was a member) was obliged collectively to resign, such was Van Miert’s irreproachable reputation that there was speculation about him presiding over a caretaker Commission. But I am a Sir Humphrey, and Sir Humphreys throughout the European institutions will forever remember Van Miert as the noble Commissioner who, when an over-excited media started citing out of context the fatal phrase ‘difficult to find anybody with a sense of responsibility’ in the infamous ‘Wise Men’s Report’, fiercely and very louldy defended his officials and their integrity. Van Miert’s untimely death deprives Belgium and Europe of a wise and loyal eminence grise.