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The world will never be the same after war in Ukraine, Verhofstadt says

“The first reaction of everybody was never will the world after 9/11 be the same. I have exactly the same feeling today about this conflict” in Ukraine, MEP Guy Verhofstadt said, answering journalists’ questions, during the Conference on the Future of Europe, on Saturday in Dublin.

The former Belgian Prime Minister, who is the Cochair of the Executive Board of the Conference, believes that the EU needs further unification. Its weaknesses are preventing it from taking action in a timely manner, he said. The delay on the implementation of the SWIFT sanction is an example of that, according to Verhofstadt, since it’s based on unanimity. “I think that a more solid, integrated, strong EU would have been a bigger threat to Putin to start such a war. Let’s take the lessons from there”, he said.

He expressed the opinion that Europe and the world would have been very different if a defense union had been created, when it was suggested in the 1950’s, a proposal that was then voted down by the French National Assembly.

When asked about the EU’s decision to send small weapons to Ukraine, he answered that it is crucial to have military equipment deliveries to Ukraine, the fastest possible. He added that it is possible to further speed up the procedures, using the European Peace Facility, since its purpose is to help funding military equipment on a short-term notice, when a democratic country inside or in the neighborhood of EU is under threat.

Moreover, answering to a journalist, he stretched the importance of an Energy Union. He noted that the EU should take advantage of its enormous purchasing power to decide on the conditions. It is also important, he said, for the EU to become independent on this subject.

Again, emphasizing the importance of a more unified EU, he said that until now energy, as well as digital standards, fall within the competence of member states. “The blame is on those who think that in the world of today, when we do it on a national level, we’ll be sovereign, we’ll be autonomous, we’ll be protected”, he stated.

He wished that the Conference on the Future of Europe will deal with all these issues and that it can give the final push for reforms to be undertaken. “We need the Conference on the Future of Europe to see our weaknesses, our capacities and incapacities” he said, noting that the Conference is more necessary than ever after the Ukraine war. He believes that it will be dramatically influenced by what is happening in Ukraine, when the proposals go to the plenary, early in March.

The last citizens’ panel is taking place this weekend in Dublin, where nearly 200 citizens will form the last batch of recommendations towards the Conference on the future of Europe. The last panel discusses the economy, the digital policy and strategy of Europe and along with education, culture and youth.

The proposed recommendations are estimated to be around 200, Verhofstadt said. He believes that these are “solid”, since they are approved by 70% of the participants. They will be used by the plenary of the Conference, where MPs, MEPs and citizens participate, to formulate the conclusions, the proposals of the Conference for the reform of EU.

Since this was the last citizens’ panel, Verhofstadt made an evaluation of the process. He described it as a serious exercise. “I call it the opposite of a referendum”, he said, since the process is based on trying to bring people together on what they agree, rather than divide them in favor or against a question.

The citizens participating are all very critical towards the actual state of play in the EU, but they are all having a European dream, he said.

“Finally, I think that the conclusion has to be that this type of exercise needs to become permanent in politics in general and in EU especially”, he said and wishes to see a type of participatory democracy that goes together with representative democracy. That would be an essential element of a true democracy, he said.


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