22nd Oct 2018

Verhofstadt sees small chances for EU constitution revival

Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt has indicated he does not believe the EU constitution can be saved, while proposing to hold special summits of eurozone leaders as an alternative.

In an interview with FT Deutschland, the Belgian leader said he backs further ratification of the EU constitution - but primarily for tactical reasons.

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He indicated further ratification would press EU governments to confront the bloc’s institutional problems the constitution was designed to address.

"I believe it is right to continue ratification. Not because I think the chance is big that the constitution can still be saved. But ratification increases the pressure on us to come up with something on the future of Europe," Mr Verhofstadt said.

Belgium itself last month became the 14th EU country to ratify the EU constitution, but Mr Verhofstadt is at the same time promoting closer co-operation of the 12 eurozone countries as an alternative to the charter.

The Belgian leader indicated "The future of the EU constitution is uncertain. I do not see how we can reconcile the enlargement of the community with its deepening if we don't use the eurozone."

He said he hoped the leaders of the eurozone would convene the first time before the next EU spring summit in March 2007, with cooperation within the eurozone currently being limited to meetings of finance ministers.

Mr Verhofstadt's call for the eurozone becoming a forum for deeper integration is in line with his recent book "The United States of Europe."

The book proposes a two-speed Europe, where a nucleus of the 12 EU states that have adopted the euro would press ahead with closer intergration, while a looser outer circle of the "Organisation of European States" would exist alongside it.

The eurozone nucleus, which would carry the prestigious title "United States of Europe" would be open to further expansion at any time to states adopting the euro at a later stage.

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