The next in our profile series of the candidates for EU Commission President will be looking at Guy Verhofstadt, who was confirmed earlier this month as the nominee for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) at their party congress in Brussels on 1 February. Speaking to delegates, Mr Verhofstadt said his priorities for the campaign would be attacking euroscepticism and promoting a federal vision for Europe.

In theory, the  Liberal Democrats nomination is more straightforward than the  Greens, who put forward two candidates for the job in order to ensure gender balance. In practice, though, the ALDE party has also opted for what it calls a “joint ticket”, with Mr Verhofstadt being joined by Olli Rehn – the current European Commissioner for the Euro – as his “Vice-Presidential” running mate.

Rehn, who agreed not to run for the ALDE nomination against Mr Verhofstadt on condition he was offered a senior EU position, suggests he and Verhofstadt could be “the ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ of EU politics, building a bridge over troubled water”. Worryingly, Bridge Over Troubled Water was the final studio album recorded by Simon and Garfunkel before they split up.

Who is Guy Verhofstadt?

Guy Verhofstadt, born in 1953 in Dendermonde, Belgium, served as the 47th Prime Minister of Belgium from 1999 until 2008. A committed federalist, this is his third run at the top spot in the European Commission. His name was first put forward as a candidate in 2004 as a possible replacement to Romano Prodi – an idea torpedoed by some Member States (including the UK and Italy). His candidacy was likewise also vetoed in 2009 on the grounds that he was “too federalist”. But could third time be the charm?

He will certainly have his work cut out for him, as ALDE (which currently has 85 MEPs) are expected to lose seats in the next European Parliament, due to the unpopularity of liberal parties in Germany and Britain. In response, they hope to compensate by picking up votes in newer Member States such as Poland.

Mr Verhofstadt rose through the political ranks quickly, becoming the president of his party in 1982 at the age of just 29. By 1985 he was Deputy Prime Minister, and was known as “Baby Thatcher” because of his youth and free market ideology. His views moderated over the course of his career, and by the 1990s he was seen as a centrist.

He may be a centrist economically, but politically he is seen as a radical federalist, having long been the most high-profile champion for the creation of a federal United States of Europe. Mr Verhofstadt argues that only by uniting politically will the nations of Europe be able to remain relevant in the face of a rapidly globalising world.

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37 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Paul X

    So his priority is “attacking euroscepticism”?

    I assume like most others who atttack euroscepticism he will merely resort to insulting and belittling those who do not follow the EU party line and spout off about “Little Englanders” etc?

    The only way to tackle euroscepticism is for everything on the European level to be 100% open and available to scrutiny by those who pay the bills i.e the taxpayers

    Corruption, cronyism and a profligate attitude is endemic in the EU so if they want to win people over they need to account for and justify every penny of taxpayers money they spend and convince people exactly how this is of benefit to them.

    Forget the usual lines trotted out on how 3million UK jobs depend on being in Europe, I want them to prove it with hard facts and figures…..details not vague assumptions

    Unfortunately I believe most of the EU bureaucrats think justifying themselves to the “little people” is below them, they know best and no-one needs to know the details of what they do to earn their money.

    So some advice Mr Verhofstadt, until you get rid of this arrogance by the Euro-elite and have them to justify their daily existence to the people who pay their (and your) wages, you will never win the battle over euroscepticsm

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @Paul X:

      This is another of your posts I find, to my surprise, in large part, I agree with.

      Those who are part of the EU body must justify their position and explain in full what it is they want to continue to see as political policies in the EU.

      For example, does he believe in Direct Democracy? And if not why not? If, on the other hand, he does feel such a policy will be of benefit to us, why does he feel that would be in the best interests of Europe. His views would be good to masticate and as he is running for office, we have every right to know exactly what he plans for us, should he survive.

      Then to add comfort to our decision should we choose him, it would be of great interest to all to know how he will bring about the change he has promised for our life as citizens of the EU.

  2. avatar
    Jason Piccioni

    No, because there is nothing liberal or democratic about this or inherent in the Commission.

  3. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    I don`t care what eu nobodies stand, I wouldn`t give ANY of them the time of day.

  4. avatar
    Cristian Dinescu

    This zombie cannot have 10.000 votes in his small city in his small country! who told this junk he is an European?

    • avatar
      Alexander Tanar

      and you? your country ? who are you to begin with? what values are you and your country bringing to the world ? :)

    • avatar


  5. avatar

    A devout europhile/extremist, bent on annexing every country in europe and doing this behind closed doors .
    Democratic, no.
    Possible future dictator, yes.
    Respect for other viewpoints ,no.
    Pushing your own agenda, regardless of what other people might think, yes.
    For internet freedom, no.
    A chip in your neck, well of course.
    Great guy, we need more like him?
    Just another europhile with to much time on his hands.
    Would make good actor.

  6. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    He’s a professional politician that thinks that the ‘Grande Projet’ is so important that the little matters of democracy, fairness, accountability and integrity can be repeatedly and arrogantly ignored.

    This gentleman, fills me with fear – a modern day Goebbels.

  7. avatar

    British jobs depend on trade, not on the existence of the EU. Abolish the EU today and one would see no difference in trade volume. The EU is not an added value when it comes to trade value or volume.

    Who is Verhofstadt?

    Answer: a dangerous man who wishes to abolish democracy and establish all out Eurosoviet rule from Brussels. Because that is what EU-federalism means, no democracy.

    This all from a man who couldn’t even get Flanders and Wallonia to cooperate in a normal way together under the flag of ‘Belgium’ now he wants to transport his failure to EU-rope? He proved his utter incompetence already.

    Verhofstadt is the archetypical apparatchik. Only the ‘party’ (the EU is a bit like the Soviet communist party, dissent is frowned upon) matters and anyone who is in the way must be ridiculed, marginalized and cast aside.

    Less than 75 years ago Europe also had an increasing plague of politicians who proclaimed Europe should be united (under German rule) and that it was inevitable and resistance was futile.

    Less than 50 years ago (eastern) Europe had plenty of those who felt Europe should be united under communist rule and that their triumph was inevitable. Turns out it wasn’t.

    We defeated the two 20th century plagues, and this new one ‘EU-ism’ shall likewise be defeated. No matter what the cost, no matter how long it takes. Justice will prevail, democracy will be restored.

  8. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Como cidadão da Europa irei a fazrer o meu direito civico nas eleições Europeias e ademiro o Primeiro Ministro da Belgica e penço que os Democratas liberais da Europa fizeram uma escolha acertada

  9. avatar

    Yes, I think, He will be a good Comission President . Europe needs a pro-european President to defend the EU aginst eurosceptics.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      The objective of the Commission is to represent the wills of the peoples NOT to necessarily defend/support its own existence.

      Guy Verhofstadt frightens me – he believes in trampling democracy, national peoples, national rights in short whatever it takes in order to fulfill the GRANDE PROJET.

      If a GRANDE PROJET cannot stand on its own 2 feet without treachery, perfidy, obfuscation or obnubilation then it has no merit.

    • avatar

      Piotr. Verhofstadt is pro-EU but at the same time anti-Europe. Does it really not bother you Verhofstadt wants to destroy national democracy?

  10. avatar
    Pietro Moroni

    ALDE’s only utility would be supporting Martin Schulz in a big left coalitions with Greens and Radical Left. Otherwise they will only keep on raising populism, nationalism and the extreme right.

  11. avatar
    Corrado Pirzio-Biroli

    I am flabbergasted by the amount of rubbish most previous commentators have dared to give vent to regarding Verhofstadt’s ideas and action as well as those of other candidates in a show of political ignorance and probably also of personal frustration, let alone nihilism. These commentators have given sickening proof of their cultural arrogance and shallowness, of their carelessness about Europe’s and their own future, and their contempt for all those who have put their sleeves up to try and deal with society’s problems, let alone politics in general. They are probably mostly dropouts who are envious of those who are “in”. Theirs is a disgraceful way of participating in the free-debate platform that is offered to them.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Corrado Pirzio-Biroli
      TOO emotional – ‘play the ball, NOT the player’.

  12. avatar

    Mr. Verhofstadt, what do you know about Ukraine and Russia which could give you some authority to speak a few weeks ago on Maidan in Kiev ? Did you know Ukraine including Eastern Ukraine ? Did you know Russia ? Did you speak with people of different parts of Ukraine ? Did you speak with Russian leaders ? Or you just wanted to appear on the Belgian TV ? And now that sometime has passed, do you think that your intervention and the ones of your colleagues have helped anybody ?

  13. avatar

    What is his position on the trams atlantic free trade agreement which threatens our European independence culture and values by subordinating them to the USA?

  14. avatar

    I hope Verhofstad takes the big one home.
    As a dedicated europhile i hope he takes the majority. We as europhiles are tired of waiting for a federal goverment , cmon lets get it done. Were tired of all the democracy mumbojumbo, lets just scrap it all together. I know Guy can and will do it this great cause.
    Elections are for wimps, we need solid forcefull goverment with a keen eye on helping big corporations, lets face it, they pay Guy lots of money to make it all happen. The future is bright with a one party system, no more whining from joe the plumber. I think giving the public the right to exist along with a work permit is more than enough, im sure Guy agrees with me.
    We as europhiles need to abolish all political parties whom sway from the path, a one party system works so much better.
    Banks, corporations, pharmas, these are the people with brains and as europhiles we should embrace them like Guy does.
    Look at the USA, its also a one party system , no fuss no muss, they have also watered down their democracy to let corporations run the show, just goes to show how good lobbying works, fantastic country , my europhile dream.
    Another europhile whom deserves mention is Merkel, i think her idea of teaching children that the europhile way is the only way and trying to put the internet in europhile hands is great. We need to start clamping down , our way is the best way, the europhile way, the only way. We need to get tough on euroskeptics, follow them , tap thier phones , and shut down thier internet sites, keep them under a watchfull eye. I know these ideas have been floated, cmon Guy i know you want it to, we have faith in you. We in europe know you can lead with a iron hand , just do it.
    From one europhile to another, slowley scraping democracy doesnt work , just get rid of it , its nasty.

  15. avatar

    The only clearly Federalist candidate. He has my vote.

  16. avatar

    He will destroy the EU, everyone will turn against him. Do we want CIA, FBI runned from Brussels ? No thank you EU will be federative, but as hardcore as US is.

  17. avatar
    roger toft

    Europe needs more integration, not less as not doubt you, Mr Verhofstadt, know well.
    I write this as a British national who fully supports what you are trying to do and, by the way, as a resident of your home country Belgium voted for you in the European elections of 2014. What surprised me was the reaction of my French-speaking Belgian friends, who greatly admire you as well. Keep up your good work !

  18. avatar

    Every bodies knows his rubber stamp decision against legally elected government in POLAND.
    In my opinion Guy Verhofstadt is someone who want to become first Emperor of United Europe !
    Nowadays is a Citizen Platform ( Polish politician ) puppet on the EP , no more.

    Is this democracy ?

  19. avatar
    Mr. Yoda

    A believer in the bureaucratic side of the Force he is…

  20. avatar
    Mr. Yoda

    In free elections he does not believe. ..

  21. avatar
    Jan De Neubourg

    Guy Verhofstadt, did you know that Wikipedia describes you as “a xenophobic Belgian politician”? Is that correct?

    • avatar

      His father was during the war a member of the extremist organisation Verdinaso VNV in Dendermonde and collaborated with the Germans. Guy Verhofstadt sold the Belgium electricitycompany to France and got as a reward a nice appartment in Le Touquet. His private life is a disaster with affairs with many of his assistents … The man is a disgrace for the Belgian politics.

  22. avatar
    Mary Hook

    What do you mean awaiting moderation?

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