As former Prime-Minister of Belgium and leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, Verhofstadt is one of Team Europe’s key candidates. Having served as MEP for two consecutive terms, he gained international recogniton over the past two years with his role as the European Parliament’s Brexit representative. In this position, his statements criticising UK politicians often made headlines.
In 2008 Verhofstadt was elected to the European Parliament where he became the leader of the ALDE group. He supports drastic reform of the European Union, by speeding up decision-making and giving voters a direct say in the direction it is heading. Verhofstadt’s is a strongly pro-European federalist, who believes in a centrist liberal economy. He has been named as candidate for European Commission President during previous elections but did not managed to secure sufficient support, partly given his federalist views. As the third largest party, the Liberal group is unlikely to obtain the Presidency but will play a key role as kingmaker, providing it with leverage in the negotiations for the top spots across the EU institutions.
Verhofstadt’s political career kicked off in 1982, when he became President of the Flemish Liberals and Democrats. From 1985 to 1991 he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget. In 1999 he became Prime Minister, the first Belgian liberal to hold that position since 1938. He served for three consecutive terms pushing through remarkable changes such as the introduction of gay marriage and legalising euthanasia.
Key policy priorities:
Stronger EU: Create a strong and united EU as counterweight to the US and China. Verhofstadt believes this is accomplished by cooperation and harmonisation of rules.
Sustainability: The EU needs to take a more offensive approach to climate change, such as the inclusion of environmental standards into trade agreements. Verhofstadt believes in the need for concrete proposals to invest in new sustainable programmes such as batteries for the car industry and environmentally friendly meat.
Labour mobility: To tackle unemployment, Verhofstadt believes in increasing labour mobility. He is also in favour of a cross-European minimum social security level.
EU army: He believes in the creation of a European army – which Verhofstadt believes will decrease costs for Member States. He is also in favour of a common migration policy and asylum system.