EU must organise itself as a ‘real continental power’ or face oblivion – Verhofstadt

‘I have the same feeling today that I got after 9/11,’ says MEP on Ukraine crisis

The European Union needs to learn the lessons of the Ukraine crisis and organise itself as a "real continental power" in economic, financial and military terms or it faces fading into oblivion, former Belgian prime minister and current MEP Guy Verhofstadt has said in Dublin.

Mr Verhofstadt, speaking to the media during a conference on the future of Europe organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs at Dublin Castle on Saturday, likened the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the 9/11 attacks in New York.

He said there was “a need” for member states to deliver “defensive military equipment” to Ukraine. “The world will never be the same,” he said. “I have the same feeling today that I got after 9/11.

“When that happened, the reaction of everyone was that the world will never be the same after 9/11 as it was before. I have to tell you, I have exactly the same feeling today about this conflict.


“It is in fact the first real war on European soil [since the second World War], even when you can say what has happened in the Balkans . . . I think what we are witnessing now goes beyond that.

“My feeling is that whatever happens to Ukraine, and we can only hope that Ukraine will prevail – their values, their democracy, their society and what they represent – will create a shock in Europe to take its destiny in its own hands.”

Mr Verhofstadt said this would involve the bloc organising itself “as a real continental power in economic, financial and military terms”.

“That will be necessary in the world of tomorrow, which is already the world of today,” he said.

“That’s the world of so-called empires, super-powers, China, India, Russia, and the US. Europe has to take the lesson that we need to do a number of reforms to make it a real European Union, because it is not a union today.

“It is, in my opinion still, a consideration based on the unanimity always acting too little too late, and this is an example of that. So it will dramatically change, or we will disappear into irrelevance, which is always possible in history.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter