In 2014, JosÚ Manuel Barroso's 10-year term as president of the European Commission will come to an end. Even though it is still a full two years away, a number of names have already been mentioned by the Brussels commentariat as potential heirs to the throne. Among the runners and riders are said to be Italy's technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and commission vice-president Viviane Reding.
Also in the frame is the leader of the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe group, in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt. Speaking exclusively to PublicServiceEurope.com here
- the MEP admits that he "would be stupid to rule it out", should the job offer come his way. Indeed, the former prime minister of Belgium already seems to have a blueprint for the policies and reforms he will pursue. The politician will even publish a book on his dream for a "post-national future for Europe", in the autumn.
Unashamedly federalist, he will set out the "need for a radical pro-European stance if we want to solve this economic crisis and how to be as radical as the opposing Eurosceptics are in their arguments". Indeed, in the interview
, he goes further - talking about his desire for a truly federal Europe and a more proactive European Union foreign policy as well as the need to question the state of Russian democracy, Chinese human rights, the rise of nationalism and the promotion of a possible European Freedom of Information Act. All interesting ideas, if somewhat Utopian in their scale and ambition.
At a more immediate and practical level, Verhofstadt makes some interesting observations about the eurozone crisis. He feels that without the creation of "a real economic and fiscal union based on solidarity and mutualisation of the debt", the eurozone and the EU face collapse. He adds: "After the summer break, we will see enormous pressure from the markets because they have a very clear indication of the end game in this crisis. And the end game in this crisis is mutualisation of the debt. I just don't believe that you can keep the euro unless you go ahead with this. A currency is not something you can keep without doing a number of things. And one of those things is the mutualisation of the debt."
So there you have it, one of the candidates for the commission top job has given us an insight into the way forward for Europe; at least as he sees it. His mantra seems to be integration, integration, integration. The message will not play well with everybody, but it is clear that Verhofstadt is a conviction politician. In these times of ideological vacuum and political pragmatism, it is somewhat rare.