The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Sander Loones MEP, ECR group, N-VA delegation.

Mr. Weber, Mr. Verhofstadt,

Antonio Tajani is the new president of the European Parliament. He would have lost had he not first distanced himself from your federalist plans. He has won the Presidency, but in the end the biggest loser was the European Parliament itself, dropping further in its credibility.

I was not surprised on Tuesday, but I was disappointed. What a hullabaloo! Everyone knows that you share the spoils amongst yourselves, focusing more on prizes than on principles. This time was no exception. Mr Verhofstadt, you knew you could not win the Presidency after your aborted dalliance with Five Star, and you once again switched your colours to find a face-saving deal and avoid even greater disgrace in the election.

You deflected attention from this haggle over positions by publishing a eurofederalist manifesto and a series of proposals that European citizens – let’s face it – aren’t crying out for. When I tour the streets of Europe I can’t say I regularly hear people calling for new European taxes, or more power to Mr Juncker’s commission.

Quite rightly, Mr Tajani distanced himself from this manifesto, making it clear that as President his job was to be neutral. Much credit to him. It will not be his job to take the initiative on building castles in the sky, but instead tackling the matters that people do talk about and want answers to, such as security, the migration crisis, and helping businesses to create jobs.

Even a quick glance of this manifesto shows that it – and the rest of the backroom deal that remains unpublished – were vintage Verhofstadt. It remains to be seen, Mr Weber, whether you are going to be a puppet on his strings or your own man in this new arrangement?

The Presidential vote is now over, and so whilst I am still disenchanted with the unedifying spectacle I’ve seen this week, let’s now look to the future. People voted for us to deliver change, and so is it now possible we can say, ‘The Grand Coalition is dead! Long live the centre-right coalition?

By working together, we could take the Union in a new direction. The EU cannot be strong, secure or defend living standards without a strong economy. So we could work together to untangle rules and regulations, and cut bureaucracy. By encouraging more information sharing we could help tackle terrorism. And we could strengthen our borders and take measures to stop illegal migration. Centre right recipes for a better European collaboration where necessary. And yes, we all bring different flavours to that recipe that can complement one another. And no, this would mean no more Grand Coalition which, if it were a recipe, would be no more than a mixture of Schnitzel and Ice Cream.

However, this new centre right political direction will require trust and commitment between our groups in the European Parliament. Trust that does not exist today. There is a reference point that we could use as an example for any future collaboration: Belgium. The Belgian Federal Government focuses on a centre-right platform, but with an institutional standstill. We cooperate quite well in this framework. My party, the Flemish N-VA, has made great sacrifices to make this work, but we see a constitutional standstill and centre-right policies as preferable to a constitutional standstill and leftist policies. So far, the alliance that contains parties from the ECR, EPP and ALDE is having a positive effect on Belgium, and bringing economic recovery to the people I represent in Flanders.

The options here, in the European parliament, are very similar to those we faced in Belgium: a Grand Coalition with the Left that delivers nothing of value, but enables you to continue a normative dream of a federal Europe; or a real institutional standstill combined with genuine centre-right policies that will provide the security, living standards and economic regeneration that our citizens want, and expect of us. Change or more of the same? The cards are on the table, the opportunity is there. I invite you to grab it.

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