Former Belgian Prime Minister and current MEP Guy Verhofstadt has announced that he will almost certainly retire from politics by the end of his parliamentary mandate in 2024.
In a recent interview with De Tijd, Verhofstadt – who is renowned for his passionate pro-Europeanism – confirmed that he will not seek re-election to the European Parliament unless he is able to stand as a pan-European candidate in 2024: a highly unlikely possibility (currently, MEPs are elected by national constituents, rather than by citizens of other EU Member States).
“I have already said that I do not seek a new mandate and I will not be on a list to be elected,” Verhofstadt said. “Except if [I am on a] pan-European electoral list. Then I would like to use my European fame on social media, among other things. It would be the realisation of a dream, because I have been fighting to be on such a list for twenty years.”
When asked about what he will do after the election, the 70-year-old quipped: “Writing my memoirs, as every Prime Minister does. Although I’m still figuring out how [I’ll do this]. Because I don’t know what happened every month, let alone every day.”
Europe: An ’empire of the good’?
A lifelong member of the conservative-liberal Open VLD (formerly PVV) party, Verhofstadt was first elected to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in 1985 at the age of 32. He then served as Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008, before being elected to the European Parliament in 2009.
During his time as an MEP, Verhofstadt became notorious in the UK as the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator from 2016 to 2020, when, among other things, he openly accused former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of spreading “disinformation” about Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
In addition to being the bête noire of Brexiteers, Verhofstadt also cuts a highly divisive figure in Belgium for his government’s perceived fiscal profligacy as well as for his aggressive pro-Europeanism.
Indeed, during the De Tijd interview Verhofstadt not only called for the “European Commission to become a European Government,” but also suggested that Europe should develop a fully-fledged army to protect itself against a “brutal world.”