Tuesday

16th Jan 2018

Liberals' Verhofstadt launches EU parliament bid

  • Verhofstadt (r), dropped hints that he wanted Schulz's (c) job as soon as Schulz said he would go (Photo: European Parliament)

Belgian Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt has joined the race for the European Parliament presidency.

"I want to dedicate all my passion and all my skills to Europe and to its parliament," he said in a video posted on social networks on Friday (6 January).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He is the seventh candidate to throw his hat into the ring, with voting to take place on 17 January after the incumbent, Martin Schulz, decided to return to national politics in Germany.

Verhofstadt, who was recently named as the EU parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said that Europe needed "visionaries, bridge builders and compromise-seekers," and that he wanted “to be one of them".

The 63-year old politician said that his nine-year term as prime minister of Belgium in the early 2000's "taught [him] that compromise is not a dirty word. Not a necessary evil, but a way to be creative".

The two frontrunners - Antonio Tajani from the centre-right EPP group, and Gianni Pittella, for the centre-left S&D - represent the two largest political powers.

Other candidates include Helga Stevens for the conservative ECR group, Eleonora Forenza for the radical left GUE/NGL, and Jean Lambert for the Greens.

Blocking Tajani

Tajani and Pittella both lack an absolute majority, which is needed to win in the first three rounds of voting.

In the fourth round, a plurality of votes is enough to be elected.

Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal Alde group, the fourth largest in the house, with 68 MEPs, believes he could win in the fourth round.

His bid did not come as a surprise, after he dropped hints that he wanted the job as soon as Schulz announced his departure.

Verhoftsadt is positioning himself as the candidate who will "break with the uninspired grand coalition" between the EPP and the S&D, which traditionally share the presidency and align positions on most EU laws.

A source in the Alde group told EUobserver that Verhofstadt could win if the S&D’s Pittella fell by the wayside and if other MEPs swung to Alde in order to block the EPP’s Tajani, who has a chequered profile.

'Too provocative'

Tajani used to be Italy’s EU commissioner, in the era of Silvio Berlusconi, a former Italian prime minister who was convicted of fraud.

Tajani has in the past faced flak for his conservative views on women’s rights.

The 63-year old politician, who used to hold the commission’s transport and industry portfolio, has also faced questions on his role in the Dieselgate scandal.

The Alde source said that Verhofstadt was betting on a free outcome from a secret ballot instead of “backroom deals” with other groups.

Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian politician who co-chairs the Green group, said there would be some coordination, however.

He told EUobserver that "all the democratic groups outside the grand coalition [EPP and S&D],“ would talk next week to try agree a common candidate for the final rounds of voting.

Verhofstadt, a federalist with liberal economic views, might not appeal to all MEPs in the Green group, the far-left GUE-NGL group, or in the anti-federalist ECR.

Verhofstadt was "too federalist and too provocative" to be elected, one Liberal MEP, who spoke anonymously, told EUobserver last month. "Many people like him, but many people hate him”, the MEP added.

Despite Verhofstadt’s claim to offer a break from the grand coalition, many MEPs also see him as being part of it because of Alde’s past deals with the EPP and S&D.

'No European superstate'

Verhofstadt was a “liberal Schulz" one Green MEP, who also spoke anonymously, said. "He wants to boost his own profile but he's not ready to fight with the [European] Commission and the [EU] Council,” the EU deputy added.

In order to dispel criticism, Verhofstadt sent a manifesto to MEPs on Friday, in which he said that "the Union of the future will not be a European superstate".

"It is in fact the opposite,” he said. "A more effective and more integrated Union will better protect our cherished European diversity: in languages, in cultures, in traditions, in ways of life. The parliament must be at the forefront of this."

He said that parliament "must be able to control the executive [the commission] in a real way and on a permanent basis”.

He said the EU assembly "must acquire full budgetary oversight" and upgrade its inquiry powers.

He also said that he wanted to reform parliament governance, with more transparency and fairer gender balance.

EUobserved

Schulz: the end of a one-man parliament

Martin Schulz has been widely credited for raising the profile of the European Parliament during his terms at its helm. But he didn't do much to raise transparency and political accountability of the EU institutions.

Agenda

Malta presidency in full swing THIS WEEK

EU commissioners meet in Malta. Meanwhile, Cyprus talks, the European Parliament presidential race, and commissioner Oettinger's hearing are dominating the EU agenda.

Fewer MEPs than visitors turn up for Estonian PM

Less than seven percent of MEPs watch Estonian prime minister's speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. More visiting students showed up than MEPs, prompting questions of the value of such sessions.

Opinion

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  3. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  4. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  5. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  6. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  7. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  8. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  10. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  11. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  12. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology

Latest News

  1. Post-Brexit trade roll-over not automatic, EU paper says
  2. Oettinger pushes plastic tax but colleagues express doubts
  3. MEPs target exports of cyber surveillance tech
  4. Kosovo killing halts EU talks in Brussels
  5. ECB withheld information on 'flawed' bank supervision
  6. Fewer MEPs than visitors turn up for Estonian PM
  7. EU names China and Russia as top hackers
  8. Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  2. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  6. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  8. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  9. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  10. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  11. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla