This content is not available in your region

'People like Europe, they have a European dream', says MEP Guy Verhofstadt

Access to the comments Comments
By Sandor Zsiros
euronews_icons_loading
'People like Europe, they have a European dream', says MEP Guy Verhofstadt
Copyright  euronews

From the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine to better housing and jobs, over the past 12 months, thousands of citizens from across the continent have come together to discuss their ideas and concerns for the future of Europe.

Known as the Conference on the Future of the European Union,this unique experiment in direct democracy recently came to an end. To talk about this in more detail, Euronews' Sándor Zsiros spoke to the man overseeing the whole process from within the European Parliament, Belgium MEP Guy Verhofstadt.

People like Europe, they have a European dream. They really think that the future of this continent lies in the European Union. But they have a lot of criticism towards the way it works today or the way it doesn't work today.
Guy Verhofstadt
Member of the European Parliament

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

First of all, we are at the final plenary session of this conference. How do you see the Conference on the Future of the European Union? Was it a success, a half success or maybe a failure?”

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"Well, I think when we started this one year ago, there were not many people who believed in the usefulness of the conference on the future of Europe. In the meanwhile, besides COVID, we have an enormous crisis with the war in Ukraine. And we have all seen that this European Union needs to be reformed, to survive in the world of tomorrow – it will be a different world - to defend the interests of our citizens, and to act more rapidly, more decisively than we did in the past."

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

"What are the most interesting proposals?"

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"For example, one of the main proposals is to end veto rights in the European Union. So to stop with unanimity voting and decision-making processes. Because of unanimity, you're always acting too little, too late with the European Union. That was the case with the financial crisis. That was the case with the migration crisis. That was even the case with COVID. And that is still a problem today in this wartime. So what we need to do is to abolish that and to have a simple majority voting system or a qualified majority system on every topic inside the union so that we can act faster than we did in the past."

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

"For that, a treaty change is needed. How do you see the chances to have that?"

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

“Well, in any way what I know is that European Parliament will take up its responsibility. So we will ask for a treaty change. “

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

"And what about social matters? Like jobs, housing, and healthcare. What are the citizens saying?"

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"They want that Europe is also having competences on that so that there is a social basis, a social minimum that is created and guaranteed by Europe in the whole territory of the European Union. On migration the citizens formulated and have been approved by the conference plenary (to have) a whole strategy to solve the migration issues on the European level, with legal migration, tackling illegal migration, solutions for refugees, war refugees and so on."

The biggest waste of money in the European Union are 27 armies, duplication, duplication, duplication and not enough effectiveness.

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

"What's your favourite recommendation personally?"

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"My favourite part is certainly the joint armed forces of the European Union. The fact that we would have a common defence policy because you see in the war with Ukraine that we are lacking that. We have to know that we spend more or less 240 billion on defence in Europe. That's four times more than the Russians. But if you look at the situation today, we are not enough capable, certainly not without the help of our American friends to do something about that. So for me, the biggest waste of money in the European Union are 27 armies, duplication, duplication, duplication and not enough effectiveness."

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

“In the past decade, the issue of democracy and rule of law has been high on the EU’s agenda. During the conference when you talked about this with leaders or people from, for example, Poland and Hungary and from the rest of Europe, has there been a common understanding on this issue? “

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"Well, the rule of law is not so difficult to understand. But the problem is that in some countries, the rulers, those who have a majority in parliament, think that they can do what they want because they have a majority. And that's not the rule of law. What is important is that in the conference, based on proposals of the citizens, we have decided to even change the treaty to make that work. Because we cannot avoid ourselves to have inside European family a few members who think that the money is important but the values not."

There is no common purchase of energy, the energy mix is still decided on the national level.

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

“We have had war in Ukraine for the last two months. How does that change the perception of the people of Europe? And was the conference able to reflect on that?”

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"Well, most of the citizen’s panels were held before the start of the war. But what we have seen, is that the conclusions of the conference fit very well into the new challenges we are facing with the war in Ukraine. We are talking about the end of unanimity in foreign affairs, in defence. We are talking about an energy union to create an energy union as fast as possible, what we don't have today in Europe. There is no common purchase of energy, the energy mix is still decided on the national level."

They like Europe. They think that Europe is the solution to a lot of our problems.

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

"What direction should Europe take according to the citizens? More Europe or less Europe?"

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"The citizens are not discussing that in the way you are describing it. You are a journalist. You categorise everything. I'm a politician. I do the same thing. You are from the right. You're from the left. You are for more Europe or less Europe. You are Eurosceptic of Europhile. The citizens are completely different. All citizens have more or less the same opinion. They like Europe. They think that Europe is the solution to a lot of our problems. But they don't like the way it works today. They don't think that European Union today is the translation, I should say, of their wish for Europe. And that is their common understanding of all citizens and of those who call themselves the Eurosceptics and those who call themselves Europhiles. And that is the big lesson. People like Europe, they have a European dream. They really think that the future of this continent lies in the European Union. But they have a lot of criticism towards the way it works today or the way it doesn't work today."

Sándor Zsiros, Euronews:

"Nationalist and populist forces in Europe are already criticising this conference for being an instrument for European federalisation. How do you see this criticism and have these voices been heard during the conference?"

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP:

"Certainly, because the citizens that have been present, there were people more critical about Europe, people more sceptic about Europe. They all were there. But they had to have at the end of common a common vision, common proposals. What I have seen there is in the beginning, extreme right-wing parties liked the conference. And then when they saw the proposals from the citizens themselves, they started to say, oh, it's not what we want. We don't like it anymore. So I don't think it's…. It’s not fair towards the citizens. The citizens have spoken and we need to take them seriously and implement it."