“It is time to stop waiting for Russia and China to agree to a UN resolution. If the Americans don’t have the courage then why not the Europeans?” (Verhofstadt, 11.9.2012)
Guy Verhofstadt ( April 11, 1953) became president of the Flemish Liberal Student’s Union (1972–1974) while studying law at the University of Ghent. He quickly became the secretary of Willy De Clercq, who was at that time the president of the Flemish liberal party (Party for Freedom and Progress, PVV). In 1982, at age 29, he became president of the party. In 1985 he was elected into the Chamber of Deputies, and became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget under Prime Minister Wilfried Martens. Because of his economic views and his young age, he became known as “Baby Thatcher”. Another nickname from that era is “da joenk”, a Brabantian dialect expression meaning “that kid” (in a pejorative sense, referring to his rather iconoclastic and immature style).
After being ousted from government he became leader of the opposition. After a failed attempt to form a government in November 1991, he changed the PVV into the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD). This new party attracted many politicians from other parties, notably from the Volksunie (VU) and the Christian People’s Party (CVP).
However, despite the fact that many had high expectations, the party did not manage to outstrip the CVP. Verhofstadt resigned and disappeared from the political scene, only to return to the party’s presidency in 1997 with a less radical image. He gradually moved away from neoliberalism (partly under the influence of his brother Dirk, a social liberalpolitical philosopher), and became more of a ‘centrist’ figure.
Partly because of a food scandal that broke out just before the 1999 elections, the VLD became the largest party in the country, obtaining over 22% of the vote in Flanders. He quickly formed a coalition with the socialist and the green party in Flanders and was appointed Prime Minister on July 12, 1999, the first liberal to hold that office since 1938.
In the Flemish regional elections of June 13, 2004, his party lost votes, slipping into third place in Flanders. Though this has had no direct impact upon his position as Prime Minister, there were rumours that the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party that won the elections, would participate in federal government. Verhofstadt was suggested as a candidate to replace Romano Prodi as the next President of the European Commission, but his candidacy was opposed and rejected by a coalition led by Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi.
In the 2009 European Parliament election, Verhofstadt was elected a member of the European Parliament for the term 2009–2014. He also has been put forward as the possible candidate for replacing José Manuel Barroso as the president of the European Commission by a coalition of greens, socialists and liberals.
On July 1, 2009 he was elected President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament. On July 14, 2009 he took up his seat in the newly sworn-in European Parliament to which he had been elected in June 2009.
On September 15, 2010 Verhofstadt supported the new initiative Spinelli Group, which was founded to reinvigorate the strive for federalisation of the European Union (EU). Other supporters are: Jacques Delors, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Joschka Fischer, Andrew Duff, Elmar Brok.
Verhofstadt is also a member of the Club de Madrid, an independent organization of more than 80 former ‘democratic’ statesmen. The group works to promote ‘democratic governance and leadership’ worldwide.
Since 2012 is Verhofstadt an independent Board Member of the Brussels-based, Brussels-quoted Sofina holding.
Sofina, Société Financière de Transports et d’Entreprises Industrielles, is a Belgian holding company which, after World War 2, invested primarily in the United States, in the areas of electricity and oil. It is headquartered in Brussels, and invests in several industrial sectors such as Telecommunication (7%), Portfolio companies, Banks and Insurance (6%), Private Equity (6%), Services within the Company (18%), Consumable Goods (31%), Energy (6%), Distribution (8%) and various other sectors (10%). Geographically Sofina has investments located in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and North America. The company has participations in Richemont, Colruyt, Danone, SES S.A., GDF Suez, Eurazeo and Delhaize.
In Belgium, Sofina plays an important role, especially in the rationalization and coordination of generation and transmission of electricity. In 1964 it passed under the joint control of the groups Boël and Société Générale de Belgique.
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