Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has been confirmed as the European Liberal Party’s candidate for President of the European Commission, ahead of the European elections in May.
Delegates of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) approved the resolution by a majority of 80 percent at a meeting in Brussels on Saturday.
Verhofstadt, who currently heads the party group in the European Parliament, is a committed federalist. His campaign will call for deeper political integration within the European Union.
The candidate lost no time in attacking one of the main dangers, as he sees it, at the European elections – euroscepticism.
“We have to be very clear to public opinion that these populist and nationalist eurosceptics have no solution for their problems. Look, if you want a future for your children on this continent, we need more Europe, we need an economic and fiscal union, a banking union, as fast as possible,” Verhofstadt said.
The party did not want to drop the other candidate who came forward, European Commissioner Olli Rehn. The two will run on a “joint ticket”, with the Finnish politician – who handles economic affairs in the present Commission – looking for another senior position, possibly heading the Eurogroup.
“I hope we form a dynamic duo for the European liberal and centrist movement in this election. We are both campaigning in different parts of Europe,” Olli Rehn said.
Among the two other major European parties, European Parliament President Martin Schulz has emerged as the only internal candidate for the Socialists, while the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is expected to name its choice in March. The European Greens have nominated French MEP José Bové and German MEP Ska Keller.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament will elect the European Commission President, on the basis of a proposal by the European Council (comprising the member states’ heads of state or government), taking into account the results of the direct Europe-wide elections for the Parliament.
Euronews correspondent in Brussels, Isabel Marques da Silva, said: “At present with 85 seats in the European Parliament, the (European Liberal) party admits that it might lose strength in countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. To compensate, it will try to conquer more votes in countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy, in order not to lose its position as Europe’s third political force.”