Friday, 16 Apr 2021

Guy Verhofstadt facing major snub over top Brussels job – ‘Will not happen!’

Guy Verhofstadt discusses 'weaknesses' within the EU

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The Belgian MEP, a supporter of a united states of Europe, was French President Emmanuel Macron’s pick to oversee the reformation project. His position was said to have been stitched-up as part of the top jobs summit that saw Ursula von der Leyen appointed as the European Commission’s president. But now EU member states decided its time to distance themselves from Mr Verhofstadt’s brand of European politics.

An EU diplomat told the Politico website: “Let’s not beat around the bush.

“The issue that has held up the start of the conference for so long is the personal ambition of Mr Verhofstadt to lead it as its president.”

The source insisted it “will not happen” because EU member states would not sign off on the position.

The growing uncertainty surrounding Mr Verfhostadt’s position as the conference’s leader was first reported by last year.

At the time, a senior insider said the European People’s Party were lining up a replacement.

But now EU member states are set to endorse plans to have at least six presidents leading the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The citizens-led summit is seen as the ideal opportunity for Brussels to engage with people after Brexit.

It has somewhat been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and in-fighting over its format.

According to draft proposals for the summit, the heads of the EU Commission, Council and Parliament are set to be made “honorary” presidents.

They would be supported by an “executive board”, made up of an individual from the EU Parliament, a European commissioner and an ambassador from the member state holding the bloc’s rotating presidency.

One EU diplomat told the FT that the conference’s leadership was being deliberately watered down to limit Mr Verhofstadt’s powers.

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The source said: “The moment he withdraws from the race, then you could look for one president of the executive committee that enjoys the support of all three institutions.”

Some insiders blame Mr Verhofstadt’s chequered past as the EU Parliament’s Brexit chief for the rebellion against his candidacy.

The battle over his role in the conference also represents a power struggle between the Council, Commission and Parliament, with all three institutions battling to take control of the bloc’s future.

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The travelling circus is hoping to engage with European citizens before rolling out a series of changes to the bloc over the next two years.

EU leaders will have to sign off on plans before the summit is allowed to get underway.

It has been delayed at least twice due to the health situation on the Continent.

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