Verhofstadt sees little need for change in the country's foreign policy. Belgium's small size and catastrophic losses in the two World Wars have led it to pursue membership in a range of international organizations aimed at preserving peace and building prosperity. Belgium has proved a strong member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and an enthusiastic supporter of a long-term EU effort to build not only an integrated economy but ultimately a joint foreign and defense policy with other member states. The headquarters of both NATO and the EU Commission are in Brussels, a symbol of the country's dedication to international institutions.
Verhofstadt supported the Dehaene government's effort to join the European Monetary Union (EMU), which occurred on 1 January 1999. In 2002, Belgium was among the 12 European nations that converted to the euro .
Verhofstadt has sharply criticized nationalism as a force leading to conflict. In doing so, he has clearly signaled that he opposes moves by any of his Flemish-speaking or French-speaking countrymen to divide Belgium into two states. As a way to build stability across the continent, Verhofstadt supports a continued but cautious expansion of both EU and NATO membership to include newly democratic states in central Europe.
Verhofstadt, though he is on the center-right of Belgian politics, has opened a dialogue with liberal antiglobalism activists, calling them "a real breath of fresh air in this post-ideological age." While other European leaders have scoffed at the activists, in October 2001 Verhofstadt invited them to an international conference in Ghent on globalism.
Belgium held the six-month presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers from 31 July to 31 December 2001. In the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Verhofstadt found this a challenging time to be leading the EU. In a letter to European Council members in September, he spoke of the "need first of all to confirm and put into practice our pledge of solidarity with the American people and leaders." As for his agenda for the EU, Verhofstadt hoped to make firm progress in the ongoing enlargement talks with 10 countries in eastern and southern Europe, to meet the goal that some of them will become members in time to participate in meetings by 2004, and expand the EU from 15 to as many as 24 nations.
In March 2002, EU representatives opened a year-long constitutional convention in Brussels designed to chart more efficient and more democratic structure for the growing union.