Guy Verhofstadt: Macron will join a pan-European liberal movement

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt and French President Emmanuel Macron will campaign together in next year’s European election and create a movement that will be a “pro-European alternative to nationalists,” Verhofstadt told French daily newspaper Ouest-France on Sunday.

Verhofstadt’s liberal ALDE group in the Parliament and Macron’s La République En Marche movement would “keep their symbols,” he said. But “our objective is to create a decisive group in the future Parliament, and a tool to stop the nationalistic wave,” Verhofstadt added.

The new movement, which would be launched in October, doesn’t have a name yet, but Verhofstadt said “Generation Europe” could be one option. “It will be something new, a movement,” the former Belgian prime minister added. “A pro-European alternative to nationalists. Our group is ready to participate in it starting from now, without delay.”

Since becoming France’s president in May 2017, Macron has opted not to align his movement with ALDE, which shares many of his views.

Instead the French president appointed a team led by Jean-Christophe Castaner to create the largest possible pro-European list, coming together on issues from the rule of law to gender equality and media freedom.

Castaner has been working on an election platform with other like-minded parties, including Spain’s center-right Ciudadanos, to create the “progressive” force. Earlier in the week, he met with Verhofstadt to discuss a potential alliance.

Verhofstadt said he shared many of Macron’s proposals on Europe. He also joined Macron’s criticism of the Spitzenkandidat process, in which European parties choose a lead candidate and the winner gets to be Commission president.

He said his group was initially in favor of such process and “became very critical.” The only “democratic justification” for the Spitzenkandidat process, he said, was to establish transnational lists, which would create a new class of MEPs representing a pan-EU constituency. But the Parliament voted this down earlier this year. 

The Spitzenkandidat, Verhofstadt said, “remains a system where it is Mrs. Merkel who decides who is the next Commission president.”