By Ben Vree,
Chairman Club Rotterdam
Mr Ben Vree, chair of De Club Rotterdam (the Rotterdam business community), speaks words of thank and honour to Mr Verhofstadt on behalf of the Bernard Mandeville Foundation. He characterizes Mr Verhofstadt as a politician with strong binding power – not only exercised within Belgium but also beyond the borders, aimed at uniting Europe.
Next follows an account of Mr Verhofstadt’s political career, which started at a very young age. Eventually it led to the Prime ministership following the election victory of the Flemish Liberal and Democrat Party in 1999. Mr Verhofstadt introduced an open debate culture for major social themes, and was instrumental in a crucial adaptation of the country’s federal state-structure. Guided by Mr Verhofstadt, Belgium developed into an advocate of peace in Central African countries like Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. At the end of 2007 Mr Verhofstadt was appointed mediator, i.e. took soundings and reports regarding the then political crisis back to the King. Having succeeded, Mr Verhofstadt turned over his office to the new government in 2008, and was awarded with the highest royal honour.
Mr Vree then addresses Mr Verhofstadt’s great merits for the cause of Europe. As a strong advocate of a more united Europe, Mr Verhofstadt defies the current public opinion. Such an attitude, which Bernard de Mandeville showed as well, is characteristic of great thinkers. It is an indispensable counterforce. In his most recent publication “The way out of the crisis” Mr Verhofstadt convincingly makes a plea for a uniform European plan to tackle the current financial and economic crises, corresponding to plans in the United States and China. Furthermore, projects on green energy, broadband networks, care for older persons, and mobility should be financed by European Union issued bonds – a groundbreaking proposal characteristic of Mr Verhofstadt’s innovative thinking.
Mr Vree concludes by referring to Mr Verhofstadt’s website biography, which mentions ‘a rebellious teenager’. Rebelliousness seems to be one of Mr Verhofstadt’s properties, but within this context – is perhaps better defined as “self-willed” – the very feature that is of such great value to Europe. It is to be hoped that Mr Verhofstadt’s “self-willingness” will persist for the sake of Europe. Reassuringly, Mr Verhofstadt’s involvement is brought out by his candidacy for the European Parliament. Finally: “Hear hear” for Mr Verhofstadt’s dedication as a Belgium and a European statesman.