Guy Verhofstadt: We need a ‘radical’ pro-EU movement

Interview, Public Service Europe, 26 April 2012

You have often been suggested as a possible candidate to replace Josι Manuel Barroso as president of the European Commission when his 10-year term ends in 2014. Does that role interest you and is it an ambition for the future, given that you have such clear views on the direction of travel that Europe should be headed in?

verhofstadt“My active goal for the moment is to create a pro-European, strong, political force and if possible a majority in the European Parliament. We shall see afterwards what the future holds. If tomorrow, they came to you and asked, then you don’t rule it out. It would be stupid to rule it out, but it is not my ambition for the moment.”

The reason I ask this is because we both know that, aside from the Council of Ministers, the commission is really where the power base of the European Union sits. The European Parliament has little power comparatively speaking – so for a man of your pro-European sentiment, it would seem like the place to be?

“Perhaps, but I can tell you that I have more influence today as the leader of the third group in the European Parliament than I did as a single member of the Council when I was prime minister of Belgium.”

You support the Spinelli Group and its ambition for a more federal Europe, but public sentiment seems to be turning away from integration towards protectionism. Will the EU just have to power on with the integration agenda despite the fact that it is going against public opinion?

“I am not so sure that European integration is against public opinion. Until now, Euroscepticism had been a very clear and loud voice but there was no clear and loud voice for a federal Europe replying ‘no, we need more Europe to solve this problem and not less Europe’. That voice now has to be created. All of the pro-European were saying ‘yes, it’s not so bad what we have and it has created peace for 50 years’. But that is the old pro-European language. We now need a far more radical federal language to explain that is far more important than that, because we are at a crossroads and we have to make a choice. Either, we stop the euro and go back to the nation state and we make a sort of confederation of nations as the Americans started to do in 1776 with the unanimity rule and so on. Or you go in the opposite direction, which is my proposal, and you create a real federation.

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