Prominent MEPs yesterday (15 September) launched the Spinelli Group, presented as a network aimed at overcoming nationalism and promoting federalism across Europe. They invited citizens to join the circle, making clear it was not a political party.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group, appeared as the frontman of the Spinelli Group, alongside Green/EFA group co-chair Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
The group, which at this stage is composed of 33 personalities, was founded by European Union supporters such as former Commission President Jacques Delors, former European Parliament President Pat Cox, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and current Parliament Vice-President Isabelle Durant (Greens/EFA; Belgium).
Romano Prodi, another former Commission president, joined the launch event towards its end, to the excitement of the audience.
Altiero Spinelli (1907-1986) is considered as one of the fathers of Europe. An Italian Communist, he was also the founder of the European federalist movement, a member of the European Commission and a member of the European Parliament. The main building of the European Parliament is named after him.
Speaking in French, Verhofstadt explained that according to the Spinelli Group's philosophy, resorting to national sovereignties and integovernmantalism only leads to political dead-ends. Each time that there is a conflict between the national interest and the European interest, the latter should prevail, he declared.
Verhofstadt said that one of the first steps of the Spinelli Group would be to establish a cross-party network of MEPs who would stand up for federalism and push through such projects in parliament.
He also stressed that all citizens who wish to subscribe to the Spinelli Group's manifesto would be able sign up online, adding that they would all be invited to attend the first meeting of the Spinelli network group on 9 May 2011.
The Spinelli Group plans to organise shadow summits before regular EU Council meetings, as a means of presenting the European interest before heads of state and government make their decisions.
Repeating some of the ideas he developed in a recent interview with EURACTIV, Verhofstadt said that the group would strive to impact upon the biggest items on the EU's agenda, such as economic governance the next financial framework.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit spoke of the new group's ambition to contribute to transnational lists in the next European elections in 2014.
Asked by EURACTIV to clarify, Isabelle Durant made clear that the Spinelli Group was not a political party and would not stand in elections. Responding to questions as to whether Belgian members of the Spinelli Group were in fact aiming to defuse nationalism in their own country, Verhofstadt insisted that the group was motivated by interests of crucial importance for all Europeans.