Following the United Kingdom’s “Brexit disaster” and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, no right-wing politician in Europe still advocates for their country’s exit from the EU, one of the longest-serving EU lawmakers, Guy Verhofstadt, told EURACTIV Italy in an interview.
Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium who is now an MEP for the centrist Renew Europe group, also warned that the EU should move fast to make a viable defence, energy, and fiscal union, in order to face mounting global challenges.
“Now is the moment to make the fiscal union, the energy union and the defence union workable and to have it for the next decades. Because if we don’t have it, we will not survive.”
“I think this next period in world history, which started with the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia, is an age of empires. What we have seen starting now is a totally new era in world history,” the Belgian politician said.
Speaking of right-wing politics across Europe, Verhofstadt, who is also co-founder of the federalist Spinelli Group, stressed that their narrative has changed in the last two years.
“What I see is that right-wing politicians, who were ten years ago or even five years ago openly advocating an exit of their country from the European Union, now do not have the guts anymore to say that,” the former Belgian prime minister said.
“Since the disaster of Brexit […] since the War in Ukraine, there is nobody who has still the guts to say to the public opinion of this country, look, we are better, more secure outside the Union,” Verhofstadt added.
Verhofstadt said that because far-right politicians have toned down their narrative, he was not concerned about the collaboration in several EU countries – including Italy – between the traditional centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and far-right parties.
“I’m not anxious. I’m more anxious about other things, like, for example, a country like Hungary undermining from inside the values of the European Union. That seems to me a more a more dangerous development,” he said.
Decision on EU Treaty reform before end of year
Asked about the European Parliament’s resolution requesting amendments to the EU Treaty, Verhofstadt said he expected an EU Council decision by the end of the year.
“This is the request of the Parliament, and that is in my opinion, the obligation of the European Council to do that before the end of the year,” he noted.
EURACTIV Italy reported on 3 October that despite the EU Parliament’s request made in June, the Council has not yet submitted a proposal to the European Council or notified national parliaments.
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“We are pushing for it and the information that we have received from the Council is that it will be put on the agenda in December for a formal decision,” Verhofstadt said.
Asked if an EU Treaty reform could take place before the next European elections, due in 2024, Verhofstadt replied that ideally, it would be ready by then, which would make the next EU election go beyond simply electing MEPs.
“These European elections can be seen as a consent of the European citizens towards this new direction of the Union. I will not go so far as calling the elections of 2024 the first European referendum. But that is what citizens have asked for: a European referendum,” he said.
[Roberto Castaldi | EURACTIV.it – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos/Zoran Radosavljevic | EURACTIV.com]