Each of the strong men are founding members of the Spinelli group of European Union Federalists. Each has served in the EU Parliament for seven years and each is a member of the European Parliaments Committee on Constitutional Affairs, which deals with institutional matters such as the treaties and the Parliaments rules of procedure.
Taking the lead of the EU MEP’s is strongman Guy Verhofstadt, founder of the Spinelli group, former Belgium Prime Minister and President of the ALDE group of liberals and democrats within the EU Parliament who champions more powers for the Commission and full fledged political union. Verhofstadt authored “The United States of Europe: A Manifesto for a New Europe,” “The Financial Crisis: How Europe Can Save the World,” and “The Age of Empires: The Financial Crisis: Three Ways out for Europe.” A potential candidate for the next Commission presidency, Verhofstadt’s ALDE group are currently the most proactive advocates for immediate and radical changes within the Union to combat the financial crisis. In addition, Verhoftsadt named Merkel and Sarkozy the Euro’s biggest threat and unveiled the “Hercules Plan” to the European Parliament which comprised of comprehensive measures to remedy Greece’s financial woes.
Following behind are Elmar Brok of the EPP DE or European People’s Party founded by ardent federalist Wilifred Martins and former Belgian Prime Minster. The EPP’s goals for the EU are similar to the ALDE. Brok was a major contributor to The Constitution Treaty, which was rejected by the French and the Dutch in 2005 and replaced by the Lisbon Treaty. Mr. Brok also was a European Parliament Representative on the Council’s Reflection Group for Maastricht II.
The third and most low key strongman is Roberto Gualtieri of the S&D IT or Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats of Italy. He is the Rapporteur on the setting up of a permanent stability mechanism for the Euro countries. This is not the first time the EU has enlisted the strongmen. This same three-man group helped draft the European External Action Service (EU Foreign Service) file.
The three strongmen work well together. Statistically the EU Parliament comparison page shows that Roberto Gualtieri is in agreement with Mr. Verhostadt on economic and foreign affairs of the Union 78 percent of the time and Mr. Brok is in agreement with Mr. Verhofstadt on these same issues 93 percent of the time. On policy issues the ALDE group often decides on policy outcomes depending on whether it sides with the EPP on most economic issues or with the S&D and Greens on human rights issues. All three big groups (EPP, S&D and ALDE) are in favor of moving towards an ever closer union – with varying ideas of how a federal union might work.
The fourth strongman, Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the Greens/EFA, FR — the French Green Party — was appointed as a substitute member. Daniel Cohn Bendit is a committed federalist and a bit less agreeable on the other issues than the rest of the team. He is a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. As founding member of the Spinelli group he sits side by side with Mr. Verhofstadt on how the EU must solve the crisis. Known as the EU’s Godfather, Spinelli would be very pleased if he were still alive. He served as an MEP who during the 1980’s was a catalyst for getting the Parliament to adopt a draft treaty on European Union, on which the Maastricht treaty was based.
The Council stated, “the delegation is to pay particular attention that the new intergovernmental agreement be a response to the crisis Europe is currently facing.” They stressed that “all possibilities of the existing treaty must be fully exploited and that all key measures must be based on the normal EU procedures.”
While Merkel and Sarkozy contributed to the disappointing results of the December 9, summit and have dominated the headlines and caused the markets to sea saw, there is a good deal more to the workings of the EU than Merkel and Sarkozy and many committed players involved.
The EU’s strong men will take the ball and run with it and are in a position to do so. They will both keep this treaty in line with the Lisbon Treaty and push the envelope as they say to pave the way to word it for the real solutions to the EU’s crisis for which the strong men are well aware. Verhofstadt and Daniel Cohn-Bendit have spoken against Merkel and Sarkozy’s half measures and are not in this position to do what would defy their beliefs or they wouldn’t be strong men. The Parliament enlisted them to beef up the results of the December 9 summit and help the EU resolve its crisis and counter the damage caused by Merkel and Sarkozy.