Verhofstadt drops out of EU Parliament race, backs EPP

ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt underlined that it was a first important step to reform and strengthen the EU. [European Parliament]

The right-wing European People’s Party (EPP) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) have decided to form a pro-European coalition that will support EPP candidate Antonio Tajani for the presidency of the European Parliament. euractiv.com reports from Strasbourg.

The withdrawal of Guy Verhofstadt emerged as a strong hypothesis since liberals had lost all chances of winning the race following a failed alliance with Italy’s populist 5-star movement.

The fallback option, which has now seemingly been activated, sees the ALDE re-endorse its traditional role of “kingmaker” in the European Parliament.

Liberals and anti-Europeans hold key to Parliament presidency

The votes of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), as well as the ultimate stance of the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom group (ENF) will determine today’s election (17 January) of the next European Parliament president, EURACTIV has learned. EURACTIV.com reports from Strasbourg.

In a letter to fellow MEPs, the former Belgian Prime Minister explained why he decided to pull out from the race.

“The last couple of weeks it has become clear that the politics in this house are hugely fragmented. I am convinced that if this situation continues, the European Parliament will end up weakened while the European citizens expect us to work together and find solutions for the numerous crises that threaten our continent,” Verhofstadt wrote. “This is why my Group has concluded an agreement with the EPP.”

In a statement issued today (17 January), the EPP and ALDE announced that they formed a pro-EU coalition and invited other pro-European groups to join it.

EPP leader Manfred Weber said his group had always been pushing for an approach based on partnership.

“We remain true to that principle and will continue to deliver,” Weber said. “We want to act together to bring results for European citizens and guarantee Europe’s stability,” he added.

ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt underlined that it was a first important step to reform and strengthen the EU.

“With Trump, with Putin, with many other challenges Europe faces, it is key we cooperate to reform our Union,” the former Belgian Prime Minister stated, adding that the deal contains provision for a European border and coast guard as well as a new governance for the Eurozone to “lift us out of the crisis”.

“A European defence force to make Europe safe again. And we agreed also to examine whether a European intelligence and investigation capacity is necessary to fight terrorism and international crime,” he added.

Bad news for social democrats

Contacted by EURACTIV, sources in the Socialists and Democrats group, stressed that this was “bad news” for S&D candidate Gianni Pittella. A press statement is expected soon.

EURACTIV understands that the new alliance between the ALDE and EPP may also encourage an opposition alliance to be formed between the S&D and the Greens.

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