Mr Verhofstadt took to Twitter to share his latest blog post on the medium.com website, in which he turns his attention to widespread protests against the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko after his controversial re-election last week. The former Belgian Prime Minister, who is well-known in the UK for his ongoing criticism of Brexit, commented: “The EU has become a full-blown democracy rather late; now it needs to start acting like one.”
In the accompanying article, he wrote: “Europe’s story has always started from the top as well as from the bottom up: from global threats and outside forces too big to handle for our countries on their own, but also from people just like those we see in Belarus today, who demanded proper democratic government and saw European integration as their guarantee.
“Now that democracy and multilateralism are under pressure world wide, and now that people across Europe more than ever need to know what the EU stands for in this world, we need to get the real story of Europe out.”
As is so often the case, his comments caused something of a stir, with plenty suggesting the bloc still had some way to go before it could legitimately call itself a democracy.
Specifically, Ms von der Leyen, who was proposed by the European Council and whose appointment was ratified by the European Parliament on July 16 by 383 votes to 327, was cited as an example of the bloc’s failures.
Philip Evans said: “A full-blown democracy does not vote for the leader of its Commission from a choice of one.
“Ursula von Layen was crowned not elected.”
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“When did I get a chance to vote for any of the Presidents?
“When did MEPs have the right to table proposals?
“The EU is a full-blown bureaucracy run by and for self-serving bureaucrats.”
Others were more direct, with one simply asking: “Are you joking?”
Another commented: “Always good for a laugh this fella.”
Others still questioned whether it was even Mr Verhofstadt speaking, with one saying: “This must be the “parody” account and another adding: “April 1st? What ARE you talking about?”
Pro-Brexit campaigner, multi-millionaire financier Jeremy Hosking, highlighted what he saw as the EU’s lack of commitment to democracy with a billboard campaign in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, including one in Vauxhall Cross which proclaimed: “7 Presidents of the EU and you didn’t vote for any of them.”
In fact, there are actually eight. In addition to Mrs Leyen, there is David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council, neither of whom was directly elected by European voters.
In addition, there is Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who currently holds the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Koen Lenaerts, President of the Court of Justice, Marc van der Woude, President of the General Court, Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank and Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors.