Monday

23rd Oct 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 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.

EU countries praise Tusk's new summit plans

EU capitals voice support for more summits, tackling divisive issues and sometimes deciding by majority - not consensus - as outlined in the European Council president's plan.

Court battles intensifies on MEPs' 'private' expenses

The EU parliament said the public does not have a right to monitor the public role of MEPs, says Natasa Pirc Musar, a lawyer representing journalists, in a transparency battle against the assembly.

EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote

As the renewal of the weedkiller glyphosate is a hot potato on the EU agenda, with a vote in the Parliament on Thursday, the role of two closely-involved EU agencies has come under scrutiny.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreI Say Europe, You Say...? Interview With Commissioner VP Jyrki Katainen
  2. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  4. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  5. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  6. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  7. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  10. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  11. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  12. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  2. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  3. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  5. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  6. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  7. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  8. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  9. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation