Guy Verhofstadt

ALDE Candidate for the presidency of the European Commission

 
 

Vastly experienced and a committed pro-European, Verhofstadt is a good communicator and was a well-respected candidate for the Commission presidency, even though ALDE lost seats the elections.

His federalism puts off some member states and there are Liberal candidates for other top jobs, so instead he may return to Parliament as ALDE Group leader or possibly as Parliament President. He is likely to be a factor in any deal, as he has been for many years, most notably as Belgian prime minister (a post he held from 1999 to 2008).

Born in 1953, Verhofstadt studied law and became President of the Liberal Flemish Students’ Union in Ghent. By the age of 23, he was a city councillor, the first step on the road to more national prominence. He went on to take a number of high-profile posts including Political Secretary to Willy De Clercq, National President of the Party for Freedom and Progress (PVV), the Flemish Liberal party. He became a Member of Parliament, and later deputy prime minister and budget minister. He helped to found the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD, later Open-VLD) in 1992.

Verhofstadt became known as ‘baby Thatcher’ in his early years for his neoliberal economic views, but he is now resolutely centrist and Euro-federalist – a position outlined in his book ‘The United States of Europe’.

In 2009 Verhofstadt was elected to the European Parliament and became leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, from which position he has fiercely criticised the timidness of the Commission and the member states in dealing with the financial crisis – something that he sees as requiring much deeper economic and political integration.

However, it is these views that will probably see one of the most passionate and eloquent advocates of European integration always miss out on the Commission presidency, with many more reluctant states wary of creating a rival to their own influence in European affairs.