May 12, 2015
Asked in a recent EurActiv interview who might be in the same heavyweight league as Europe’s founding fathers, Antoinette Spaak paused a moment before intoning “Guy Verhofstadt”.
The blessing might seem humdrum, but coming from the daughter of Paul Henri Charles Spaak, it constitutes a laying-on of hands.
To many, Spaak is merely the name of a Brussels Parliament building difficult to find your way around. But the three time socialist prime minister of Belgium (1938–1949), was the first president of the United Nations general assembly (1946–1947), the first president of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe , and the second secretary-general of NATO (1957–1961).
More importantly, he was the first president of the common assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (1952–1954) the forerunner institution of the EU.
In a sense, Spaak was the mother of all founding fathers.
Madame Spaak’s anointment of Verhofstadt will surprise few within the Brussels bubble where he has achieved minor cult status, partly on account of sharing his nickname – “The Hoff” – with music and pap television icon David Hasselhoff.
Strains of “I’ll be ready” – the theme to Hasselhof’s eighties series Baywatch – frequently accompany the arrival of one of the [Brussels’] Hoff’s frequent press releases, sung by the newsdesk at EurActiv.
Meanwhile Heard in Europe understands that the Hoff’s parliamentary staffers prefer to sing along to the theme tune of Knight Rider – another Hasselhoff classic – when their leader emerges. Unsurprising given the mysterious political edge to the lyrics:
“Knight Rider. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist… a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.”
Star quality indeed…
Perhaps it is time to settle for once and for all which is the true Hoff.
Heard in Europe lays down the challenge to David and Guy: we’re ready for the “Hoff Off”.
Photograph courtesy of the The European Parliament/FlickrHeard in Europe