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EU elections 2019: Who is Guy Verhofstadt? And what does he stand for?

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EU elections 2019: Who is Guy Verhofstadt? And what does he stand for?
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Over the coming weeks, Euronews will be speaking to the leading candidates to take the EU’s top job after elections next month.

We have already spoken to Ska Keller, Frans Timmermans and Violeta Tomic.

Next up is Guy Verhofstadt, representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), who will be appearing live at 16h CEST on Friday, May 13th.

Submit your questions for Verhofstadt here.

Who is Guy Verhofstadt?

Verhofstadt is a Belgian MEP with a long history of political activity. He graduated in 1975 with a law degree from the University of Ghent.

Career

In 1976, Verhofstadt became a member of Ghent City Council. He then became the leader of the Flemish Liberal Party in 1982, at the early age of 28.

Verhofstadt served as Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium from 1985-1988, and in 1991, he founded his own party, the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD).

In 1999, he was elected Prime Minister of Belgium and remained in office for almost 10 years. He made Belgium the second country in the world to introduce gay marriage and to legalise euthanasia.

He is currently the leader of ALDE for Europe and the Chief Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament.

What does he stand for?

Defending European values

Verhoftsadt wants to defend democracy and equality in a time of rising nationalism that he sees as threatening Europe's fundamental values. For example, he wants to combat gender inequality, gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

Prepare Europe for the future

He wants to harness globalisation and other global trends to generate growth and jobs. He is against protectionism and defends free and fair trade.

Boost infrastructure

Verhoftsadt wants to invest in education and make life better for Europeans by simplifying bureaucracy and introducing a fully integrated market for digital services.

Oppose all forms of racism

Verhoftsadt believes the EU migration and asylum policies are no longer fit for purpose. He wants refugees who come to the EU to find protection. In the ALDE manifesto, liberals say they "oppose all forms of racism, division of societies and hatred against human beings. Any form of violence against people on these grounds must be prosecuted".

One of Verhoftsadt's measures is to financially support safe countries in the Middle East and Africa to continue hosting refugees.

Innovation and opportunities for all

Verhoftsadt wants to invest in research and innovation, and equip the EU's workforce with appropriate skills for the 21st century. He wants to fix our current digital divide between generations and promote education that focuses on critical thinking, entrepreneurial skills and interdisciplinary skills to fit with the current market.

Build a more liberal Europe

Defend LGBTI rights, protect citizens against terrorism, organised crime and climate change, pursue innovation, make Europe more competitive and defend entrepreneurship and business are some of the measures Verhoftsadt wishes to put in place to make Europe more liberal.

Social media engagement

Verhodstadt has 651,741 on Facebook, 24.3K on Instagram and 372K on Twitter.

Below is his most liked post on Facebook since 2009:

I got angry this morning at Mr Tsipras, because we need to see concrete proposals coming from him. We can only avoid a #Grexit if he takes his responsibility. Watch my speech again here

Publiée par Guy Verhofstadt sur Mercredi 8 juillet 2015

On Twitter, he got 107k likes on this post, captioned: "Just tell us what Vladimir has on you. Maybe we can help."