5 questions with... Guy Verhofstadt
Get to know the leader of Parliament's ALDE group in 5 questions.
1. What is the smallest change you have made in your political career that has had the biggest positive result?
Leading the Rwanda inquiry in the Belgian Senate. Formally speaking, this wasn’t an important function, but it radically changed my views on politics. Until then, I was mainly preoccupied with economic and budgetary issues. The genocide in Rwanda opened my eyes on the vital importance of human rights, civil liberties and foreign policies. It taught me that politics are much more than balancing the budget and managing the status quo.
2. Which person that you have worked with has most inspired you in your career, and how?
That would be Willy De Clercq, who was my political father and taught me first the ins and outs of local politics in Ghent and later national politics. I wouldn’t do him justice by just summing up all the things I learned from him. He was a remarkable politician who understood the power of words and who transformed the Flemish liberal party from an elitist club to a broad people party. He was also a great European, a member of the European Commission and Chair of the European Liberal party.
3. Is there anything you have personally achieved or done that would surprise people?
Cycling up Mont Ventoux in less than two hours, or racing at 200km an hour on the Spa-Franchorchamps track.
4. How would you describe your political style in three words?
Outspoken, radical, liberal.
5. What was the most inspirational and influential book you have read?
The last inspirational book I read was ‘Fire and Ashes’ by Michael Ignatieff, former leader of the Canadian liberals, who writes with an astonishing honesty about how he failed in politics. It’s not often, in any walk of life, that you find so much openness about what went wrong and what had to be done to overcome the hardship.
Guy Verhofstadt (BE) is Chair of Parliament's ALDE group