EurActiv.com

EU news and policy debates across languages

22/01/2017

The Brief: Never, ever trust Guy Verhofstadt

The Brief: Never, ever trust Guy Verhofstadt

The Brief is EurActiv.com's evening newsletter.

NEVER, EVER TRUST GUY VERHOFSTADT

Today we learnt an important lesson; never, ever trust Guy Verhofstadt.

There was a time when, even if you disagreed with him, you could believe the Hof stood for what he believed in. Not anymore.

Earlier today, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement voted to join Verhofstadt’s ALDE group in the European Parliament.

On Friday, Verhofstadt said that he would fight populism if elected European Parliament President on 17 January.

Verhofstadt is meeting Grillo, a populist who wants Italy to quit the euro, this afternoon. They have already drawn up the terms of their marriage of convenience.

There was speculation about 20 minutes ago that the deal was dead. But by even considering getting into bed with Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, Verhofstadt has shown his true face.

Framed by that unmistakable middle parting, it is the shifty, snide face of a career politician, a venal opportunist willing to trade any conviction or belief for political gain.

In many ways, it’s an uglier mug than the likes of Nigel Farage. You know where you stand with Nigel, who stands to lose millions in EU funds if his EFDD group collapses as a result of M5S’ defection. Don’t be surpised if it drives UKIP into the arms of Marine Le Pen.

The Hof could have been the poster child candidate to end the snivelling, infantile Grand Coalition between the European People’s Party and the Socialists & Democrats.

Now he stands for precisely the dishonest backroom deals he claimed to despise. ALDE and 5 Star should be adversaries, not political prostitutes shacked up together for cash and influence.

Is Verhofstadt so obsessed with ALDE regaining its “kingmaker” status as the third largest group in the Parliament?

Perhaps there is more going on here than meets the eye. Maybe the Hof has wrought some Damascene conversion on Grillo, who is now a committed Euro-federalist. It’s hard to tell because no ALDE spokespeople returned our calls or emails.

No matter the result of tonight’s talks, Verhofstadt has lost all credibility and strangled his Parliament candidacy at birth.

ALDE, whose members can be forgiven for feeling mutinous, should jettison this liability as soon as possible.

Or at least hand him the metaphorical revolver and bottle of whisky by rejecting M5S in their vote on its membership.

It is impossible for any responsible, pro-European group to take the M5S on board.

Not my words, but Verhofstadt’s back in 2014.

THE ROUNDUP

The plot thickens. Back in December, Verhofstadt put his name to an amendment that would mean MEPs could only form groups according to their political affinity. The amendment didn’t pass, luckily for Guy…

Sylvie Goulard, the French ALDE MEP who considered running for Parliament president, told EurActiv France she’s concerned about 5 Star leader Beppe Grillo’s “xenophobic and nationalist opinions”.

Jorge Valero obtained internal documents that reveal the Commission strategised with Hungary to force a quick close to its investigation of the Paks II nuclear plant project.

Günther Oettinger, who will be grilled tonight by MEPs after starting his new job in charge of the EU budget, was embroiled in a scandal after it was revealed that he traveled on the private plane of a lobbyist who consulted the Hungarian government on Paks II. Read more on Paks II in this interview with a Hungarian MEP from EurActiv.cz.

A European Commission spokeswoman said conditions in a Greek refugee camp are “untenable” after a new YouTube video showed asylum seekers there freezing in snow.

Cyprus peace talks got underway today in Geneva. British, Turkish and Greek leaders are set to join in on Thursday.

Turkey is insisting the EU should stop dragging its heels in talks to bring Turkey into the bloc. Over the weekend, the Turkish government fired 8,400 civil servants and closed down more than 80 associations in another frenzied move to purge anyone seen as having ties to last summer’s failed coup.

Theresa May insisted that Britain will control its own borders after it leaves the EU, suggesting she might be willing to give up on the EU single market to have her way.

LOOK OUT FOR…

Tomorrow the College of Commissioners will meet and Jean-Claude Juncker will meet the Prime Minister of New Zealand.  We will also know whether ALDE has lost all credibility or just most of it.

Views are the author’s.