Monday

13th Jul 2020

Verhoftstadt elected as new Liberal leader

Former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhoftstadt, has been unanimously elected as the new leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the third largest political party within the European parliament.

Mr Verhoftstadt, recently elected as an MEP in European elections earlier this month, will take over from Graham Watson, the UK MEP who has been party leader for the last seven years and is now hoping to become president of the European Parliament.

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  • Former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhoftstadt, was elected as the new liberal leader on Tuesday (Photo: European Commission)

The party won 84 seats in the European elections, with the MEPs expected to vote on Tuesday (30 June) between Mr Verhoftstadt and UK MEP Diana Wallis.

However Ms Wallis - an MEP since 1999 – dropped out at the last minute following internal party negotiations.

In recent months Mr Verhoftstadt has been a vocal critic of the European commission over its handling of the economic downturn.

"I think we will live in difficult times in Europe over the next few years, difficult and important times," he said before his election in a packed room in the European parliament.

"I think it is the task of the European parliament to push the council [representing member states] and the commission to come forward with more credible solutions to the crisis," he added.

Mr Verhoftstadt's name has also been mentioned as a possible challenger to centre-right Jose Manuel Barroso's ambitions to take on a second term as commission president, with the co-leader of the Greens party - Daniel Cohn-Bendit - coming out in his support.

However a 2004 bid by Mr Verhoftstadt to become commission president was scuppered by the UK government who considered the Belgian politician to be too federalist in his beliefs.

Mr Verhoftstadt said he would quit his current post as city councillor of Ghent as soon as next week so that he can concentrate his energy on working for the party.

Last week the centre-right European Peoples' Party re-elected French MEP Joseph Daul as their party leader in the parliament, while the Socialists re-elected German MEP Martin Schulz as their leader.

The Greens also re-elected outgoing co-chair French MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, with Germany's Rebecca Harms set to replace Monica Frassoni as the other co-chair after the Italian failed to be re-elected in June.

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Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Parliament vaping booths 'too confidential' to discuss

The European Parliament is refusing to disclose documents on an internal debate on whether to set up e-cigarette smoking booths at its premises in Strasbourg and Brussels, posing questions on how it handles transparency on relatively minor issues.

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