Sunday

20th Aug 2017

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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

Opinion

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

Europeans more optimistic about EU since Brexit vote

Perceptions of the EU have increased significantly in France, and Europeans generally feel more optimistic about the future of the bloc since last autumn - despite Brexit and a surge in populism.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy