All posts by Liberal Words

ALDE Party Congress 2017: have we reached our Climax?

From December 1st to 3rd, Amsterdam hosted the ALDE Party Congress 2017. In this piece, Thalia Ntoka speaks about the salient aspects of the event, the perspectives for Alde and the contribution  expected from Individual Members

With more than 3000 ALDE Individual Members around the world we should celebrate this and hope things won’t change. We already achieved so many successes regarding our status. We have an elected Steering Committee, country Coordinators and a whole department inside the ALDE Party to help us. We elect Delegates, submit Resolutions, have voting rights and attend the annual Congress with numerous events, what else could we ask for?

The truth is that this Congress, was a huge success for us! We worked hard for two years, elected 3 Delegates to represent us, submitted 2 Resolutions and one of them was adopted. We held 4 big events, offered our members the possibility to contribute, share and exchange ideas and finally, we managed to increase our visibility, we even had a live interview similar to that prime ministers and commissioners had.

If we look back to where we started, we already made big steps and achieved so many things. We definitely couldn’t have done it without help from people from the ALDE Party and if we didn’t have the will to become stronger and give the European citizens the opportunity to participate and raise their voice.

Now the time has come to make the next big step and this is the hard part. We need to decide about the kind of the piece of the puzzle we want to be. We come from different countries and even if we share common European values, we also have our national identity. It won’t be easy to persuade people to start thinking different than what they are used to. We should find our common ground where we are all strongly connected and start pushing for European solutions.

We have already produce resolutions but we need to eliminate all kind of concerns when it comes to the slogan of ‘more Europe’. Our campaigns should be targeted and specific to important issues regarding our common future. Our events must contain solutions and politics. We need to become the policy makers who will offer a liberal agenda to the European citizens.

We cannot change things in a heart beat. Our president Hans Van Baalen once said that the Individual Members are the driving force of the ALDE party. We should prove our value on daily basis. The New Steering Committee has concrete roles, since we decided that if we want to succeed and make a step further, we have to separate our duties and use our abilities wisely. We also decided to introduce two co-Chairs because the ALDE Party Individual membership is increasing rapidly, something which means there is much more work to be done.

Unfortunately 5 people cannot work miracles, we need your valuable help and knowledge. Introduce yourselves to those who are interested in participating. Share your creative ideas with us and other members. Being a policy maker is not an easy task, it requires good will and time. There is no need to feel disappointment if the results are not always the desired ones because challenges will never stop.

The next two years we will choose our battles wisely. We will target specific political sectors (eg. education, economy, environment, human rights), so that our campaigns have a result. The same with our events in our countries. You are all invited to highlight problems in your region and we will be there to help you. 

If I could use this as a call for participation then allow me to add this quote from Barack Obama: “A change is brought about because ordinary people, do extraordinary things.”

We can do extraordinary things but that requires a strategy, highly motivated people and big dreams. With more than 3000 members around the world, let’s do it!

Thalia Ntoka

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L’Europa e le sfide dei flussi migratori: Alde Individual Members ne hanno discusso a Roma

In this new contribution, in Italian, Marco Ajello talks about an event organized by Alde Individual Members  and Radicali Italiani about Europe and migration flows. Among the speakers were Emma Bonino, former European Union Commissioner and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Benedetto Della Vedova, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and founder of the pro-EU movement Forza Europa; Andrea Mazziotti, current chairman of the Commission for Constitutional Affairs, and, finally, Radicali Italiani president  Antonella Soldo. Due to the exceptional nature of this event, we have decided to publish a longer contribution than we usually permit

Alde Individual Members  insieme col parlamento europeo e di concerto coi Radicali Italiani ha organizzato una conferenza sul tema politico sicuramente più sensibile al momento, ovvero quello della gestione dei flussi migratori. Moderato da Antonio Stango, coordinatore italiano degli Alde Individual Members, l’incontro ha visto la presenza di Emma Bonino, già Ministro degli Esteri e commissario Europeo, dell’attuale presidente della commissione Affari Costituzionali della Camera dei Deputati, Andrea Mazziotti, di Benedetto della Vedova, sottosegretario agli Esteri, della presidente radicale Antonella Soldo; di Gianna Radiconcini, presidente onorario del Partito d’Azione, di Marc Hartwig, leader del team Hotspot Italia e di due studiosi del settore come Giuseppe Morgese e Nadan Petrovich, oltre a Riccardo Scarpa della Lega Italiana diritti dell’uomo.

Il quadro generale italiano

L’immigrazione non è un fatto nuovo e se nel nostro paese è un fatto recente, di certo le migrazioni sono avvenute dal nostro paese e in alcuni momenti sono stati elemento caratterizzante, senza dover pensare all’epoca dei regni romanobarbarici, la stessa Roma si sviluppa col contributi di diverse popolazioni, compresi gli etruschi, che probabilmente nemmeno erano di lingua indoeuropea; e ovviamente senza dimenticare le colonie greche o fenicie lungo le coste meridionali. La stessa Epica che doveva celebrare il natale di Roma tratta della storia di un migrante anatolico che fugge col padre e il figlio dalla guerra e trovando l’amore e il progetto di vita nella penisola.

Oggi globalmente nel mondo ci sono 230 milioni, 3% della popolazione mondiale, un sociologo austriaco rovesciò la questione ponendosi invece il quesito “come mai il 97% delle persone non si sposta?” Gli stati nascono entità di sovrano che posseggono sudditi e terre e in tal senso le varie modernizzazioni non cambiano tale sostanza. L’ultimo millennio si caratterizza contro gli spostamenti di massa e anzi i dissidi fra diversi gruppi etnici sono stati spesso alla base degli sconvolgimenti e della creazione di nuovi assetti. In questa cornice si sviluppano i principi sul “diritto di emigrare” degli individui, che non si traduce in qualche obbligo a ricevere immigrazione. La convenzione di Ginevra del 1951, sottoscritta da una trentina di stati sovrani  aveva in mente soprattutto la problematica di singoli individui e si preoccupavano per i perseguitati dagli stati di origine (siamo nel pieno della guerra fredda): quindi non si trattava di emigrazioni di massa e si poggiava unicamente sulla persecuzione di enti statali. Il ministro Gava firmò le prime riforme in merito e da allora non sono sostanzialmente cambiate: la legislazione cittadinanza è del 1992, quella dell’asilo del 2002, ma riprende una legge del 1990). Oggi dunque viviamo col paradosso di fare un’accoglienza che pare fine a se stessa, e solo dopo anni cominciamo a chiedere all’immigrato cosa sa fare (e senza permesso di soggiorno gli è vietato chiedere un lavoro standard). Abbiamo un’immigrazione sostanzialmente irregolare, anche perché non abbiamo offerto un’immigrazione regolare credibile. Andare nel consolato del proprio paese per  informarsi per trovare un imprenditore o uno sponsor italiano nasconde una mentalità da pianificazione statale assolutamente fuori da ogni buon senso: il mercato produce le occasioni di lavoro, non gli stati, soprattutto in paesi c un forte terziario avanzato.

La situazione attuale.

Dopo le tragedie in mare nel 2015 la UE decide di regolamentare la problematica  (l’agenda europea dell’immigrazione: evitare i morti, ridurre immigrazione irregolare,  arrivare a una politica comune di asilo, una nuova politica di immigrazione legale e rafforzare i rapporti coi paesi di origine); l’obiettivo era  creare una eccezione temporanea agli accordi di Dublino. La commissione, per ingraziarsi i paesi membri, ha premuto per l’uso sistematico del fotosegnalamento, per garantire a ogni paese la conoscenza sugli arrivi. Il sistema italiano di accoglienza è però saturo: non si può garantire la gestione completa nei 5 hotspot destinati e si compensa con varie strutture emergenziali.

Gli accordi di Dublino prevedono che la richiesta degli immigrati debba avvenire nel paese di primo approdo. L’Italia firmò a cuor leggero, perchè in quel momento lo scenario vedeva come avamposto la Germania rispetto alle rotte via terra nella Mitteleuropa. Il problema vero non sono gli sbarchi, bensì la società multiculturale: problemi quindi non solo di casa e lavoro, ma anche di pari opportunità; e se non ci è chiaro lo scenario, il rischio è che ci scoppi tutto addosso.

L’intervento di Andrea Mazziotti

Di rilievo l’intervento di Andrea Mazziotti, promotore con Bonino, Della Vedova e Magi della nuova lista ‘+ Europa’: “In Parlamento- ha spiegato-non ha avuto vita facile la risoluzione del 2016 dell’europarlamento sulla raccomandazione all’istituzione di un meccanismo in materia di democrazia, stato di diritto e diritti fondamentali. Da parametri valori a norme, ma di fatto in parlamento si rovescia lo schema. Si parte  dal problema, da quello che ci piacerebbe e dopo si cerca di adattare con le norme: prima vediamo di cosa sono contenti i cittadini. Il problema in ambito Parlamentare è la mancanza dei giusti interlocutori nelle sedi istituzionali. Ed inoltre quella delle modifiche alle norme sull’asilo politico è questione marginale nonostante si parla solo di quello. Quanto alla revisione del trattato di Dublino, è stata bocciata dall’Italia, sia perché l’onere rimane in gran parte nel paese di primo approdo, che avrebbe dovuto comunque fare una revisione preliminare di ammissibilità, lasciando quindi un sovraccarico a tali paesi; sia per la gestione con gli altri paesi membri, che di fatto legittimava la non ricezione di individui in cambio di minori trasferimenti di denaro, esplicitando di fatto un valore monetario del migrante. Secondo correttezza, si dovrebbe sollevare la questione partendo all’articolo 7 del trattato e cacciare gli stati membri reticenti. La Commissione stessa persiste nell’usare strumenti giuridici deboli, per potersi riservare maggior  discrezionalità e di comune accordo coi governi soppianta l’Europarlamento e i suoi strumenti democratici e legali. Tutta la gestione dell’immigrazione di fatto è avvenuta al di fuori di trattati stipulati con altre nazioni sovrane, gli accordi dei singoli governi con la Turchia sono un esempio. E in Libia è ancora peggio, considerando che gli accordi non sono neppure con una realtà statuale radicata sul territorio, ma solamente vari clan e gruppi di potere al di fuori di qualunque controllo giuridico”.

Contro una nuova Lega delle nazioni

“Usiamo strumenti giuridici deboli quando ci va di mezzo la vita delle persone- prosegue Mazziotti – Viene da domandarsi a che serve l’inchiostro usato per le leggi che sanciscono dei valori. La riduzione di sbarchi di cui si vanta la commissione è meramente trattenuta nei paesi prospicienti il mediterraneo in strutture che non dobbiamo aver paura a chiamare Lager, intesi come luoghi al di fuori di controlli terzi e quindi latori di qualunque violenza. Al di là dell’Italia, al di là dell’Unione Europea, dobbiamo porci una questione di stato di diritto, anzi proprio di “pianeta di diritto”, argomento per il quale l’ONU dovrebbe essere la principale tematica, che purtroppo ultimamente ha cominciato a ritrarre l’espansione dei diritti umani a favore di una novella edizione della lega delle nazioni. Questo è il sovranismo: persone che vogliono chiudere il ciclo produttivo e riproduttivo. Se è vero che con liberalismo economico lì dove arrivano le merci non arrivano cannoni, è altrettanto vero che dove non si fanno arrivare le persone si dovrà perlomeno dare delle prospettive di sviluppo. E lo sviluppo non funziona dall’alto, se non per la creazione di norme e di progetti di massima. La crescita reale avviene con le singole decisione di ogni singola “formichina umana” che abita questo pianeta: solo i risparmi degli immigrati può portare benessere autentico nelle popolazioni in ristrettezze economiche. Dagli accordi di Helsinki (1975) fino all’attentato alle Torri Gemelle (2001) il mondo ci ha fatto credere in una progressiva e inarrestabile aumento dei diritti individuali. La diminuzione del lavoro e soprattutto del suo valore economico al di fuori delle figure ultrapicali,  ha smantellato il potere della media borghesia che è il contropotere diffuso contro i soprusi delle entità statuali e non. La  morbidezza con la Cina dopo i fatti di Tienanmen han garantito essa di diventare potenza mondiale, e ora persino prepotenza mondiale. Siamo sempre più mondo fatto di governatori in stile George Wallace, nel suo discorso di insediamento nel 1963 invocò “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” (segregazione ora, domani e sempre). Per questo non bisogna far passare sotto gamba queste problematiche: c’è in gioco oltre all’assetto delle nostre città, anche proprio la nostra rappresentanza e diritti e valori che consideriamo base e fine della civiltà”.

Marco Ajello

“Why not?”, Margrethe Vestager meets Alde Individual Members in Lisbon

In this contribution from Portugal, country coordinator Luiz Menezes describes an important debate on the role of women in politics. The contributions focuses on the opinions of EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who explains why, in the current European scenario, it is most important that ordinary people engage in politics and as individual members of Alde

On the 6th of November I had the privilege to host the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager at the Portuguese ALDE IMs’ debate on “Women in Power – the new role of women in politics”.

It was a really inspirational exchange, with simple but deeply felt learnings, and meaningful sharing. Vestager particularly shared the ‘decisional model’ that she uses whenever she is confronted with life challenges: since this constituted a particularly insightful moment of our exchange, I summarise it below.

“SO WHY NOT?” Vestager asked. Often in life we are paralyzed by fear, worries and anxiety. We fear that we are not good enough; that we don’t have anything to offer; or even that no one will listen to us. Sometimes our anxiety anticipates obstacles well down the road: what if I have to speak in public? What if they’ll think I am a bluff?

If one thinks of it, indeed politicians must be either really courageous or really stupid to overcome these feelings. Looking around Europe and across the pond we all know what kind of politicians are abundant.

Remember Plato’s words “One of the consequences of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up  being governed by your inferiors.”

SO…WHY NOT? You are brighter than most of our current politicians, you have something to say, you want to change the world or at least your town

Politics is made by and for people: everyday people. Not only the kind of grey, anonymous bureaucrats.

Politics is made by and for people who care about other people: for people who have reasons to be angry, sad, and also happy and excited. Politicians are people who reach out, who try to build bridges of dialogue, and who try to let emerge and enhance the positive side of each of us. These are the kind of people who will bring emotions, trust and values back to politics; those that armies of bots and fake news cannot bring down.

SO… WHY NOT BECOMING ONE OF THEM? If you think the world is more than 0’s and 1’s, more than black and white, more than us versus them, then you should pose yourself this question.

You don’t have to think about the finish line, nor worrying about the obstacles: they will become part of your path, and you’ll deal with them along the way. Just focus on the now. Dream big, make plans, and act now. Think of the first step: You can do it. Become an activist, join an association or group, put your name out there.

And if we could count on you as ALDE IM, or as member of ALDE through any of the national parties, even better. Just act. I know it’s scary: but everything is. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail: but at least you could say you tried, and next time you’ll do better.

Luis Filipe Menezes

 

Helping refugees is not enough: we must prevent future refugee disasters

Starting from the official migration data in Europe, Erik Solbu analyse the phenomenon in search of possible solutions that – apart from welcoming and helping those who run from poverty and war- can stem the escape, also intervening in the countries involved

How many immigrants are welcome to Europe?

For many years there has been a conflict in the migration issue between liberals claiming human rights to free movement and xenophobians opposing all forms of immigration of people with different skin color and background. While the former focus on the benefits of immigration, the latter only see disadvantages.

Despite the wonderful idea of a boundless world, we cannot, unfortunately, ignore the fact that free immigration would lead to major problems in Europe. Direct problems caused by immigration itself as well as indirect problems caused by increasing xenophobia and extremism. Although we find those totally against immigration wrong, too many immigrants lead to chaos in our societies. This was the case in 2015 when 1.39 million asylum seekers entered EU(28).

Region/

country

Population

millions

Asylum seekers 2014 Asylum seekers 2015 Asylum seekers 2016
Thousands % of pop. Thousands % of pop. Thousands % of pop.
EU28 510 662 0.13 1,394 0.27 1,293 0.25
Germany 82 203 0.24 477 0.58 745 0.91
Sweden 10 81 0.8 162 1.62 29 0.29

The table above shows the number of asylum seekers to Europe (EU(28) with separate reports for the two most generous countries (Germany and Sweden). Taking into account the chaos that broke out when the reception capacity was exceeded and consequential political acts, we may make the following conclusions: An inflow of more than 1% immigrants relative to the population does not work, while an inflow of 0.25% seems manageable. The maximum inflow of immigrants to the whole EU28 thus lies between 1 and 5 million per year, provided immigrants are more eqaually distributed among the countries.  The German Christian Democrats recently set a target value of 200,000 immigrants per year (= 0.25 % of the population). Therefore, although we may wish for a higher reception of refugees, the longterm influx of immigrants to Europe will probably not be much higher than about 1 million people per year.

How shall we chose which immigrants to stay?

UNHCR Report Forced Displacement in 2016: “Over the past two decades, the global population of forced migrants has increased significantly from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016, and it is still high.”

The most acute problem is currently caused by the war in Syria, but there is no reason to believe that refugee problems will disappear if that war ceases. Probably, if nothing radically is done, problems creating migration will increase even more over the next 30 years. As it is, how can we know that just the people who manage to enter the borders of Europe are the ones most in need of shelter, as there is a massive amount of refugees that never come in question for asylum?

It is easy to argue for asylum rights under the Geneva Convention, while at the same time you are doing everything you can to make it difficult for refugees to enter Europe. Those who succeed do so at risk of losing their lives in the Mediterranean. I see this attitude as immoral and therefore I have proposed to the EU Commissioner for migration a policy based on asylum centres outside the EU and a quota system for distributing refugees between the member countries. Recently the Swedish political party Moderaterna and a group among Kristdemokraterna (both EPP members) have proposed a similar policy.

How can we prevent future refugee disasters?

Up to now EU has done little or nothing to prevent situations giving rise to refugee disasters. We may not have been strong enough, but certainly we have not been determined enough. The colonial past of Europe has partly paralyzed us so we do not intervene when humans suffer in countries around us.

One exception was Libya, where the dictator was overthrown with help from Europe (and the United States), but as soon as this was done, the country was left helpless. The confusion that arose after we left Libya to its destiny was later used as argument for doing nothing in the case of Syria. The total non-involvement in Syria led, however, to tremendously much higher problems than in Libya.

A lesson to be learnt from this is that Europe must have an active attitude for dealing with problems in our surroundings. If a military action is needed, this must be part of a plan for stabilizing the country on a long term. There is also the question whether Europe henceforth can rely on the assistance of the United States. The answer is most probably not. We must admit that the problems are ours and we must have the capability to solve them ourselves.

Situations where military actions are needed are exceptional and create suffering. Therefore it is important to act for avoiding such circumstances. The development of civilian communities in our neighbourhood is not only humanly, but also to our own advantage. We do best with democratic, prosperous countries around us and must work for this in many different ways.

One specific problem that may destroy whatever effort we may do to stabilize the countries around us is high population growth, which takes place in most vulnerable countries in the world and inevitably leads to deterioration of living conditions and to conflicts.

In Africa, the forecast is that the population will double from 1.2 to 2.4 billion by 2050. If we continue to do as little as now for the people in our environment, Europe will either be flooded by refugees even more than autumn 2015, or forced into even more frustrating methods to keep suffering outside Europe’s borders. In both cases, this will lead to disasters and destroy our humanistic values. To prevent this, a massive, all-European initiative is needed to counter the evolving development.

A central action will be the powerful actions for birth control in the most vulnerable countries. In most of the sub-Saharan countries, five-six children are now born per woman and the population is growing faster than the economy, which inevitably causes catastrophic consequences if nothing is done.

Conclusion

If nothing dramatic is done, the number of migrants will most likely increase in the future. However, rather than only focus on problems caused by migration, we must get the European politicians to act to prevent future refugee disasters. There seems to be a willingness to spend 2 % of GDP for military defence. Actions to stabilize our surroundings are as important and should certainly also be allowed to cost. Only in this way can we maintain our decency and democracy.

Erik Solbu

“You can’t say no to Emma”: The radical challenge of making the United States of Europe

 Claudia Basta describes in this article the meeting which took place in Rome, which brought together some pro-European political figures and activists, headed by Guy Verhofstadt, to discuss the prospect of possible United States of Europe

Every country has its own liberal icon: one outstanding political figure that more generations associate with the most epochal liberal accomplishments of the 20th century. What makes the figure of Emma Bonino unparalleled is that those generations are nearly four; that her political influence stretched unchallenged into the current century; and that the unconditioned respect she earned along fifty years of tireless political activity crossed not only the Italian borders, but the European ones.

Born in 1948 in northwestern Italy, Emma is one of the historical leaders of the Italian Radical Party. A thin, discrete, energetic woman who commands European major languages as well as Arabic, at first sight I wouldn’t be able to guess her origins.

Something of her reminds me of the portraits of Dutch writer Etty Hillesum: the inevitable cigarette, the eyes straight into the eyes of the observer, and the attitude of inquiring and challenging her interlocutors at the same time. Her style of argumentation resembles that mix of intellectual rigor, firmness, and yet uncomplicatedness of an experienced scientist; her bearing, that distinct dignity of the Israeli and Palestinian women who walked me through the many gates and walls of their existence with a perpetual smile. In a congress room packed with hundreds of participants, media staff and security, I have never seen her, once, denying a moment of genuine attention to every single person – including myself – who approached her. These traits combined confer to Emma that sort of authoritativeness that one accords to another, somehow, instinctively; without, which is perhaps what impressed me the most, experiencing that distance and subjection so typically emanated by Italian leaders.

Guy Verhofstadt, Emma Bonino

At the beginning of his speech, Guy Verhofstadt summarized all of this very effectively: “You can’t say no to Emma”. Invited to participate in the convention Stati Uniti d’Europa: Una sfida Radicale (United States of Europe: A Radical challenge), held in Rome on October 28th and 29th, Guy showed to having experienced Emma’s invitation as a ‘call to arms’ from the side of the commander-in-chief of a battle that he, too, wishes to win: constructing the European Federation of States that founding fathers like Altiero Spinelli had envisioned at the dawn of the European Union.

Emma’s Radical Party – evolved into the movement of Italian Radicals, which hosted the convention in the framework of the yearly congress led by secretary Riccardo Magi and president Antonella Soldo – endorsed this vision since those early days.

Roberto Saviano

In an Italian political landscape infected by more and more viral anti-Europe narratives – according to which the Italian economic decline is due to the Euro, to ‘Brussels’ bureaucrats’, and to the imposition of so-called austerity – this convention stands out as a stronghold against the populistic drift to which Italian voters, approaching the political elections of 2018, seem so vulnerable to. Once again, Emma and her companions are combating a battle for the common good that few understand, many misrepresent, and many more European Liberals should join.

With the sole exception of writer Roberto Saviano (who stressed his mutual inability of “saying no to Emma” despite the strict security requirements of his movements), the convention opened and closed with the speeches of prominent politicians. Whilst all of them shared the vision of a federation of European States in which regulatory and decisional processes, European citizenship, market and borders, and the latter’s international positioning could be more consistently, cohesively and concretely empowered, each speaker emphasized specific aspects of the relevant challenges. These – from the challenge of implementing one European fiscal policy to the creation of a joint defense system – were discussed in five parallel sessions. Relevant outcomes were reported to the audience on the second day of the congress, before the final speeches and Emma’s conclusions.

Benedetto Della Vedova, Enrico Letta

In the limited space of this article, what I would linger on is the red thread that connected the contributions of Guy Verhofstadt, Benedetto Della Vedova (founder, in 2016, of the liberal movement Forza Europa) and former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta: that is, the motivation and pre-condition for the making of the United States of Europe. The former consists of the inevitable transition of the European Union toward a smaller, older, and ‘slower’ geopolitical entity squeezed among the American, African and Asian giants; the latter, consists of fighting the anti-Europe narratives that, by feeding nationalistic and populistic movements from Italy and France up to The Netherlands and Great Britain, contribute to weaken that entity further by persuading European voters to leave the Union with the false expectation of “taking the control back”.

What the convention United States of Europe: A Radical challenge conveyed with force is that changing that narrative and establishing a transnational political culture orientated toward reforming rather than leaving the Union, demands to all European Liberals – regardless of our individual positioning on the liberal spectrum – of becoming ‘masters of the European future’. This requires us to respond to irrational fears and ideological preconceptions with facts and figures; to embody progressive optimism against conservative pessimism; simply, to remember to our fellow citizens what it means being able to move, without crossing neither physical nor psychological barriers, from one country to another, from this to that European University, and from one to a better job; and what this will mean for future European generations. In the end, changing the narrative according to which the European Union is our problem rather than our solution calls us to embody the same forward-looking attitude of Altiero Spinelli, whose famous statement was recalled by Emma Bonino in her conclusive remarks: “a European federation is not something that will occur by destiny. It is something that only the will and effort of the European people will achieve.”

We can’t say no to Emma, remember.

Claudia Basta

Love letter to the Union: the rational case for emotional Europeism

In this post, ALDE Individual member Alejandro Almau argues that the defence of the European project does not depend on spontaneous feelings of belonging, but rather, that such emotions can arise from the rational acknowledgement of its merits

I was tempted to call this a ‘thought letter’. I decided to go with love because, as I will explain, it is actually both and, well, it sounds better.

First I should clarify that to me, true love is not the result of a sudden emotion that could go away as it came. Not a whim of the soul that defies explanation.

When I think of why I love my girlfriend I don’t find myself in clueless wonder. I could name dozens of reasons why I think she’s great, why I care about her and why it would be foolish to leave her. Chemistry definitely plays a part too, especially in getting started, but beyond that, there has to be actual reasons to serve as the foundation for any lasting relationship, romantic or otherwise.

In this time of shameless sentimentalism I am often accused of being cold for presenting ideas of this kind, but I disagree. I find that there is nothing more heart-warming than the deeper form of love that comes from the certainty that the reasons of affection are real and will not vanish overnight. I resent the notion that magic and lack of explanation are preferable. That’s called ignorance.

In politics, feelings are volatile and dangerous. While important to our humanity (crucial in fact), sentiments are not the ideal material to build governments on. The benign love for one’s country can easily turn into xenophobia under the wrong circumstances. A seemingly harmless feeling of pride for one’s heritage often becomes the justification for racism. These are not theoretical risks. We have seen it happen too many times in Europe.

There is a place for feelings in politics though: after reason. Not before. I love the European Union and what it represents. Not because of the colour of its flag or the harmony of its anthem, but because of the strength of its reasons.

There was a time when we humans lived in tribal societies. We developed social conducts of cooperation and empathy among us, but also feelings of distrust and aggression towards those outside the tribe. We carried those instincts with us throughout history.

We created bigger and more sophisticated political communities, and still, for centuries, we all had to adopt the king’s religion and live as subjects, not citizens. Even after the enlightenment, we took the idea of the tribe and turn it into nations. And so, with our nation-states, victims of nationalism and collectivist ideologies we kept killing each other through countless wars and abhorrent genocides.

It took the death of millions, the ruin of our once shinning empires and the lost of our standing in the world to realise that our tribal inclinations were holding us back. That we had plenty to be proud of, just not of what we used to be.

From that realisation the most successful political endeavour of our times was born: The European Union. Through trade and cooperation we were able to build a new age of shared prosperity and peace in what used to be a continent of almost perennial war.

The European Union is not a nation. Nor does it need to be. It is not a union in religion, language, or any heritage other than our common commitment to democracy and the fundamental rights that it entails.

I love the European Union because it represents our ability lo leave our worst tribal instincts behind us and build a political community based on laws rather than just feelings. One that celebrates that we can be ‘united in diversity’ by creating bonds far greater than those coming from our primal instincts.

I love the Union, not out of an irrational emotion, but because its flag reflects the colours of peace and democracy, for so long denied to so many. Because its anthem echoes the voices of the voiceless who suffered religious and political prosecution in this land for centuries and are now free to chant for joy.

Our Union is far from perfect, but we love people even though no one is, not even my girlfriend.  Although to be fair, she is as close as it gets.

Alejandro Almau

Daphne Caruana Galizia e la fine dell’innocenza

This is the first of some contributions written by ALDE Party individual members who are also journalists about the murder of their Maltese colleague Daphne Caruana Galizia. The one that follows is the opinion of Massimo Ricciuti, from Italy. He focuses on the investigation the journalist was doing and the fact that she had discovered evidence of financial irregularities and general corruption involving some of the most powerful people of the island.

Daphne era una giornalista. Una di quelle toste. Sembrava uscita da un film del tipo “Tutti gli Uomini del Presidente” (tratto dallo scandalo Watergate che porto alle dimissioni, a opera di un’inchiesta di due giornalisti, del Presidente USA Nixon). Il suo era un giornalismo d’attacco, un giornalismo odiato perché ha come scopo quello di raccontare la verità, di scavare sottotraccia, di vedere oltre quella che viene definita la “società post-truth”.

Inoltre, Daphne era una donna. Una donna pericolosa, una donna che si permetteva di fare inchieste anche sul Presidente maltese Muscat! Insomma, Daphne Caruana Galizia era una giornalista, donna, e non aveva paura. Un esempio. Nella giornata di lunedì 16 ottobre aveva scritto sul suo seguitissimo blog le seguenti parole: “Ci sono corrotti ovunque, la situazione è disperata!”.

Da alcune settimane era oggetto continuo di esplicite minacce di morte. Particolarmente aumentate nel tono e nella violenza specialmente dopo che aveva trovato prove evidenti del coinvolgimento diretto della famiglia del primo ministro Joseph Muscat in traffici e finanziamenti illegali finanche provenienti da Paesi come l’Azebargian. E inoltre di  presunti traffici di carburante che legano la mafia italiana, Malta e Libia e  che coinvolgono gente importante, persino un ex calciatore della squadra maltese di calcio.

Ma nella società attuale, dove la “Percezione” degli accadimenti si impone sul “Principio di realtà” non può esserci spazio per una giornalista, donna, che ha come scopo proprio quello di svelare trucchi e imbrogli.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, giornalista di Malta è stata uccisa nella giornata di un caldo inizio settimana nel suo Paese, Malta. Ha scritto alcune allarmanti frasi, è salita in automobile e immediatamente è saltata in aria. Come si permette una giornalista (categoria tanto odiata e impopolare finchè qualche professionista non ci lascia le penne)  di scavare  dietro la società “post-truth?

Come si permette di studiare a fondo carte e documenti e cercare persino conferme ai propri sospetti, senza limitarsi, come in modo ambiguo molti fanno, a limitarsi ad urlare contro l’establishment e basta?  Come si permette di fare il contrario  di una qualsiasi populista, di quelle persone che vanno tanto di moda oggi e  che usano riempire le piazze affermando genericamente che “tanto sono tutti uguali”?

Come si permette questa giornalista di fare il proprio mestiere e che ci fa riflettere che bisogna smettere di “sentirci” assolti quando invece siamo tutti coinvolti? Tante domande. Come tante se ne faceva Daphne.

Già il nome diceva tutto. Un nome mediterraneo. Un nome spagnolo. Era il cognome del marito dal quale aveva avuto tre figli. E poi il suo aspetto, lei era maltese ma emanava un’aria “almodovariana”, sfacciata e sfrontata. Bruna. Soffice ma dura. Una che non si spezza ma sa come flettersi nelle pieghe della complessità.

Nel suo blog “Running Commentary” aveva scritto tutto. Questioni di tangenti e petrolio. Di conti opachi. Nomi di politici potenti…e poi quello del primo ministro Muscat… Ma quello per cui, forse, è stata uccisa, rimane lì. Tutto leggibile.  Finchè qualcuno oltre a fare “bang” farà “click”…

Ma, speriamo, anzi, siamo sicuri che le inchieste di Daphne verranno portate avanti e riprese comunque. Una ragazza, un giovane, un gruppo, una moltitutine non smetterà di scavare e raccogliere l’eredità di questa grandissima giornalista….finchè ogni angolo, ogni rivolo, ogni interstizio non verrà setacciato in nome della verità.

Mai come adesso c’è bisogno di trasparenza. Ma non quella gridata, ma quella che si basa sulla fatica vera. Senza alzare la voce ma neanche senza abbassare il tiro.La realtà non ha paura di nessuno.

Massimo Ricciuti

Fighting for a federal Europe of the Regions, not for Regions in Europe

In this contribution from Sebastien Martin, reflecting on the current Catalonian crisis, he discusses the importance of granting more powers to regions and their role within the European Union to reinforce and defend the EU itself”.

As liberals, we cherish two values more than anything else: freedom and the rule of law – but not necessarily equally. As the Catalonian crisis unfolds, our community becomes deeply divided: some of us put freedom above the rule of law (arguing that the rule of law might become, in some cases, a constraint placed on the expression of the will of the people) while others put the rule of law above freedom (convinced that any freedom must derive from the law, and that any system developing outside the rule of law is inherently dangerous). The present article is an attempt at reconciling our community by refocusing on a common objective which respects both values equally, allowing the freedom of the people to flourish on clear legal grounds.

In the absence of a true European constitution, the law which continues to govern the distribution of power within a given Member State is its constitution. Under the Spanish and French constitutions, to take two examples, no administrative entity can legally secede from its Member State. Doing so would mean acting illegally, and raise complex issues as to the recognition of any independence declaration at both European and global levels. In the case of Catalonia, it is doubtful that France or Italy, for example, would recognize it as an independent State – simply because so doing would likely reinvigorate regional aspirations which have been rampant within their own territories. More pragmatically, if a region unilaterally decides to leave a legal agreement – in this case, a constitution – which it has originally adopted with a large majority, then what credit will it get when negotiating new treaties?

Overall, such a scenario would increase the risk of a dissolution of the European Union, as Europe is not solid enough in its current state to absorb further shocks and uncertainty. Furthermore, forcing Member States to concede to the independence aspirations of (some of) their regions – or, more correctly, putting Member States in front of the fait accompli – will simply not work, and probably end up in strong internal divisions, if not outright violence.

The solution to this dilemma is to go for what is, and has always been, our main objective:  a federal Europe. Transferring additional powers to the European Union as a first step, before redistributing part to regions, which would clearly have higher chances of success. The concept of Nation State would have been, by then, weakened enough –not by force – but with the implicit consent of the States themselves and, through them, by the collective will of all the European peoples.

Both parts could not be dealt with at the same time: it is highly unlikely that Member States would accept to ratify a European constitution which would immediately transfer part of their sovereignty to regions. But continuing to gradually transfer more power to Europe – in the way of making it progressively more federal – is clearly a step in the right direction.

We could go further and imagine a European constitution explicitly granting regions (however defined) the right to organize as they see fit; or even, a constitution which would recognize regions as official political entities of the Union. Such a solution would kill two birds with one stone: making Europe federal, making it a Europe of the regions. In such a scenario, there will be no need for regions to painfully renegotiate their accession to the Union – they will de facto be part of it. The political part could be led by the Assembly of European Regions, which has already successfully pushed for a more formal recognition of regions at the European level in the latest project of constitution, which wasfinally rejected in 2005. As for the institutional framework, it already exists: the abandoned constitution of 1953, as laid down by the founding fathers of the European Union.

In any case, we should have our priorities right. We should firmly abide by our values and not bend any of them to specific situations, however difficult or pressing they might be. Fighting for regional independence today will probably backfire tomorrow, and make our ultimate goal of a federal Europe more remote. We should go the other way around: we should make Europe the catalyst of this devolution, as the solution can only come from a higher political entity. I believe that refocusing on such a proposition would enable us to reconcile our views on an issue which is very divisive not only for Catalonia and Spain, but also for liberals.

Sebastien Martin

AN EXIT… FROM BREXIT

In this contribution, Kevin Mc Namara describes why, also with the Brexit process in course, it is in the interest of both parties that a strong relationship remains. Like Norway, or Switzerland, the United Kingdom could develop a sort of ‘Associate membership’ with some regulations to adopt.

I’m a British Liberal Democrat, and I campaigned vigorously for the United Kingdom (UK) to remain inside the European Union (EU). The result was heartbreaking but – for me – that did not end the fight. In the 2017 General Election, I stood for Parliament on a platform of offering voters an Exit from Brexit, and performed better than expected in a heavily leave-voting area.

Even though that election ended, that debate rages on – the Prime Minister’s Florence speech now prolongs it. Although light on detail, Theresa May’s speech did elucidate that her government wants a two-year transitional deal to avoid a cliff-edge and also to give her government more space and time, as it has thus far bungled the Brexit negotiations.

There was, however, one thing that I agreed with the Prime Minister on: the EU is stronger with the UK, and the UK is stronger with EU. For this reason, I think it is in the interest of both parties that a strong relationship remains – if I was the Shadow Brexit Secretary of a socialist party that was fudging this issue, I might even say “a progressive relationship” – but we need to decide what this looks like, and fast.

With Macron looking to radically reform the European Union – going as far as to call for a Eurozone Parliament to give democratic accountability to monetary policy – what the British and Northern Irish needs to be thought of in this context, and the UK desperately needs friends to move this along.

 

In the diagram above, other than seeing that Europe is a rather complicated place, you will see that the UK is inside the European Economic Area, the European Union, the Customs Union and the Council of Europe, but is not a member of the Schengen Area or the Eurozone – it has always enjoyed a unique relationship with the EU and related institutions.

Whilst this has always been used to appease the UK’s Euroscepticism, it can be used to keep the UK at Europe’s periphery, even if the UK now decides it no longer wants to be at its core.

Like my party, I believe that Single Market and Customs Union membership are paramount to the UK’s prosperity, and also are important to ensure that Brexit does not adversely affect our European partners either. The Union Jack in that diagram would move a few inches to the left and rest either next to Norway or Switzerland.

I know my government, aided and abetted by our socialist opposition, disagree so we need to prepare Plan C in the event that an exit from Brexit and a soft Brexit are both off the table. We need a Plan B that softens the blow not just for the UK and the EU, but for colleagues in Gibraltar who seek to be hurt most by Brexit. That Plan B also needs to leave clear a re-entry route for the young who voted overwhelmingly to remain,

To recap, the new arrangement needs to leave Bre-entry on the table as a possibility, cement a strong continuing EU-UK relationship without remaining part of the Single Market. In the same way that the EU has rolling accession talks with a number of nations – such as Serbia – it should establish a similar relationship in place for seceding nations too.

You might call it ‘Associate Membership’ of the European Union, a space and a framework in which states can:

  1. Continue to adhere to the Copenhagen principles
  2. Be part of a forum on future regulations and be able to adopt them if they wish to do so
  3. Enjoy trading relationships – short of benefits/obligations of the Single Market – with Member States
  4. Enjoy (optional) membership of entities such as European Atomic Energy Community, if possible.

I am afraid that I will not be able to show you what this looks like on the venn diagram above as I do not have the requisite skills and – sadly – the UK might again cut a rather lonely figure. In his speech to the LSE European Institute on the 28th September, Verhofstadt, ALDE Leader and European Parliament Lead Brexit Negotiatior, signals that he could also accept this as part of a package of broad EU reforms.

The advantage of this would be that it keeps the four freedoms indivisible, keeping the EU strong, it would provide a framework for seceding states to stay in-line with the operations of the EU, and a route to quick return. It would make softer the possibility of a very hard Brexit, and it would create a strong, forward-looking relationship with the EU27 so we can come up with creative solutions for Gibraltar.

And then the fight continues, and then one day, the structure of Europe might look more like this:

Kevin Mc Namara

WHY EUROPEAN LIBERAL LEADERS WILL LEAD THE WAY

In this contribution, Anja Fabiani, our individual members country coordinator from Slovenia, describes why European and liberal leaders will grow in importance and will become a role model for any other leadership in the international scene over the next few years.

Smart power leadership is essential for future leaders. More than this; it’s the driving force behind successful global leadership. We understand it as a metaphor; it is not about the concrete leadership process or a leader as a personality.

Smart power leadership means  the combination of various sources and strategies, of hard and soft approaches, all dependent on context. Different players constitute the social and political reality, they interact with each other and contribute to the changes in the same way that conventional leaders once did. Civil society and cyber revolution are part of it. This means radical democratisation as other forms of hegemony fall apart.

The process of Enlightenment is unfinished. It never will be complete but  it has revived the contra revolution of religious and other ideological belief systems. Today, Society is not threatened neither by class, nor by God warriors – endless expansion threatens it. Future leaders will show their capacity when referring to the frame of limitation; how they will relate to Others (third World, powerless…) and to technological and scientific developments.

European worth lies in the heritage of its intellectual diversity.

European worth lies in the heritage of its intellectual diversity. Not in the civilizational elitism nor in the mimicry of ideologies alone but in an interaction of both. United in truth; It is the different intellectual and cultural models, arisen from Europe’s past, which today form the new reality. This is the context of smart power and the potential of European leadership. It could be a role model for any other leadership outside when properly understood. It is renewed; it is newly enlightened.

Transformative leadership is the leadership which addresses the exchange of needs and targets values of liberty or justice. It is inspirational, not pushy; it reaches out to the liberal norms. Transactional leadership is harder; but combination is the perfect harmony.

So, why is the future leader European and liberal?

In understanding the process of changing global society, it is never just European, but it carries its essential part: self-limitation with ratio, self-consciousness of diversity and claim for peaceful co-existence.

The new leader flies on the wings of freedom, only by personal choice and in full interaction with Others, with full respect to Equality, Fraternity and Liberty and with the reference to Moral Imperative.

They will never allow others to limit their Freedom, not with vain ideas, nor fixed ideology, and never by terror.

The future European liberal leader is Millennial

The future European liberal leader is Millennial,  they turn the world upside down and shake it because they know that everything is meant to be change.

It is about the dance of existence in the heart of Europe. It is about freedom when there will no longer be a need to explain what freedom is or where Europe is placed. Leadership as such will transcendent its meaning.

Until then, we, all leaders, are the force behind and have the responsibility to understand.

Europe faces challenges, which are bound to stoke tensions between security and freedom. We should act united, in common defence, but open. Real threat lies not in openness but in the tension toward it, in extremism or radicalisation.

Liberals should move forward to bright horizons of centre. Why are we always in third or fourth place? Why not first? It feels so natural.

The first real smart power leadership

Individual membership of ALDE Party is a genius idea because it is a grassroots movement, which involves the spectrum of civil society, but is a part of political family, which lets people act on both levels. Truly democratic. We could name it: the first real smart power leadership. The challenge for the future will be to maintain its purity –people acting with no power aspirations, loyal to ideals – but still maintaining influence on decision-making processes. On the other hand, Europe as a value, has never been more important. It is  now centre-stage.

We have a chance as never before. Towards smart leadership: the first step is to build transnational European lists, to have transnational delegates to European structures, to have European citizenship and to federalise the continent in a completely new way.

Go for it. Stand up for it.

Be the inspiration and the transformation.

Anja Fabiani