ALDE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS STEERING COMITTEE CANDIDATES, GET TO KNOW THEM: SILVIA FERNANDEZ

Let’s get to know  Steering Comittee Elections candidates. Voting started on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democrats perspectives  to each of them. Now it’ s up to Silvia Fernandes from Spain.

 

With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?

The rise of populism is definitely one of (if not) the biggest challenges of European Democracy of the 21st Century. Terrorist threats, economic distress, increased rate of unemployment, refugee crisis… are all issues that encompass the rise of the populist movement across Europe, namely right-wing. Despite being an heterogeneous group, they find common ground on two pillars: europhobia and anti-mass immigration.

The problem has very unfortunately been reinforced when national parties have adjusted their own policies to the ludicrous demands of the far-right in an attempt to not lose voters to these populist parties. Neither this or leaving them completely out of the decision making process in national parliaments or the European Parliament, where they have representation, has proven to succeed. This is merely because populist parties draw strength from playing the victim card, the oppressed minority who feels its identity and nationality is being gradually eroded by the Union. However, being anti-European makes most of them not so participative in the EP’s decision making process, thus there is no need for establishing a ‘cordon sanitaire’ – since this would be adding fuel to the fire.

I believe that the Liberals and Democrats should develop the best articulated and strongest speech that will challenge the right wing while remaining true to our liberal and democratic values. Populist movements have exploited insecurity and resentment and constructed a false narrative to position themselves as an alternative to already established parties. There is a need to come back strong, now more than ever when fear and anger are predominant in some member states; we need to fight back for European integration, freedom, and human rights.

Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we should work towards transnational lists?

It is my believe that citizens should be able to participate more directly in European politics. They should have the right to vote on their preferred candidate. Against what most of the right and populist parties have said, the creation of Transnational Lists would only strengthen EU democracy by bringing the EU closer to the citizens allowing for a more effective and tangible integration and consequently trust in the European institutions.

One of the main reasons to create Transnational Lists is that the current system fails to respect the principle of degressive proportionality established in the treaties. Therefore, it is not representative of the actual EU diversity portrayed by the 27 Member States. By establishing Transnational Lists, we would be allowing European political parties to act as genuine parties and focus on real European matters instead of national ones during European elections. Moreover, member states that currently are underrepresented such as Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands would have a real proportionate number of seats in the European Parliament. An adequate reallocation of seats would ultimately give ALDE member parties more weight across Europe and in the European Parliament challenging the EPP and populist parties.

Having said that, I would not jump the gun and fight for them for the 2019 elections. Essentially because the complexity of the development of the Transnational Lists due to the disparities in requirements and legal challenges across the 27 member states is grand. Thus, I feel that the time for Transnational Lists is the 2024 elections. This would give us enough time to fashion an effective democratic and proportionate system. For better or for worse, Brexit has given us the opportunity to reform Europe towards a more democratic and open Union. Let’s make the most of it.

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ALDE Individual Members Council Candidates, get to know them: Thalia Ntoka

Get to know ALDE Individual Members  Council Elections candidates. Voting started on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democrats perspectives  to each of them. Now it’s up to Thaleia Ntoka from Greece.

With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?

In recent years a new movement has been established not only in Europe but also unexpectedly in the USA.  It includes figures from all political parties and there is no difference whether they come from left or right, the result is the same. Citizens are divided, hate is rising, and a false agenda is highlighted as “the good one”.

What caused the rise of populism? There are a lot of theories, with the inequality to be given as the most common explanation. Fear is another theory that earns ground with its supporters to feel more and more distant since according to them the political establishment does not care about their needs, ignores them and even hates them. Some people believe that populism is a trend and will go away the same way it appeared.

I am afraid this is not true and unfortunately while we, under shock or surprise are watching terrible things happen around us, populism will grow, and populist parties will keep becoming stronger. There is no certain recipe to fight populism and we should not fight it by using its own dangerous weapons.

What we could do is to share an alternative vision. We should try to win its supporters and make them feel safe again. We should persuade those who feel threatened that Europe will not lose because of the immigrants. That we could live all together and despite our differences, our common future can be bright.

We should also not forget that our politicians carry their own mistakes and failures. Just accusing or ignoring populist movements, the problems will just become worse. A pan-European campaign against populism would help those in need to understand our vision. Our politicians should start thinking of ways to create an anti-populism movement related to progress and stability.

Populism is about emotions such as “our country, our safety” so it is time to have something similar but with the good emotions, which will include all of us, no matter where we come from.

Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we should work towards transnational lists?

Transnational lists would help liberal democrats to get more votes and better results. Also, they give voters more power and they strengthen the democratic procedures. In my opinion, we should also try to help our national liberal parties to become stronger, support all those qualified and increase our presence on the national and European level.  By working in two levels, we can achieve better results.

ALDE Individual Members Steering Comittee Candidates, get to know them: Charalampos Karapanos

Let’s get to know  Steering Comittee Elections candidates. Voting started on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democras perspectives  to each of them. Now it’ s Charalampos Karpanos from Greece turn.

With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?

Populism is a monstrous creature which feeds on the fears and ignorance of issues concerning, among others, the European Union, liberalism and a quality democracy. What can we do as ALDE IMs?

I think we should turn a page and accept what we are doing today in a great way, we should now for example focus in on everyday life matters all around Europe, in each Member State and across the EU generally.  We are a political party. We should now concentrate on what we can do as a party to open ourselves up to society and see how the European Union can play a more liberal and democratic role in many, various problems in our towns, villages and cities in the EU by bringing them to the political fore.

We must deal with everyday problems and must come closer to citizens in local communities – especially in Member States which are in the most danger of populism, and we can organise this because we have the advantage of fellow party members all around Europe. This cannot be done only from Headquarters or from social media. We are an innovative party and what we have is more than great, but ALDE should prove the message of its existence. In this direction is the invitation from the Steering Committee to the members to organize events across borders.

We are here, and we are people from society caring for our fellow citizens. We are here, and we should pay attention to the rights of the LGBT, the right to access education, the right to a natural environment et cetera, across Member States, and open the agenda to citizens. Let us travel to see the real condition of camps across Europe and talk to the refugees and the citizens there. There are so many ways to explain, make it clear and get closer to society. Workshops can be organized in local communities and private gatherings. We even have members in villages in the high mountains, we can use face to face contact, in organized events, of fellow citizens of local communities, seminars at national and pan-European levels for party members who are willing to give themselves up for this purpose and are in need of educating themselves on the know-how and the tools they can use to share the truth and the message of our principles and the benefits of a federal EU. How can we fight populism if we do not get out of our armchairs, get organised and try to prove what is right?

A great number of European citizens don’t even understand the basics of how the European Union works, or what is it, or why it is, or their rights and they only know some of their obligations but distorted the way some populists presented to them. I share my life between Greece, Germany and Denmark and there are so many EU workers from other EU states. I have found not more than few who know they can vote for in local council elections and the European elections as permanent inhabitants of the country of EU they live and work. So, for me, there is only a one way road to the fight against populism, to make our existence well known and honestly approach people in our local communities activating all our members just to say: “Hey! We are here! And we are here doing this, this and that and EU is this, this and that.” And ask them, so that we can feel and learn maybe something we don’t already know, report and put it in our agenda. Simple words, honest words and all for liberty and dignity and we will be appreciated, and populism will have no place to take root.

Please let me say one last thing: ALDE IMs should try to run more joint events, an even closer cooperation with LYMEC, and in local societies more so. With honesty, methodical working and with excitement and experience, as our weapons, we should not be afraid of anything, especially of the brittle, as based and structured on lies and fear, populism.

 Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we should work towards transnational lists?

I totally believe that what we should focus in on is to give to the European elections a real European dimension. What I mean is that in many cases European elections are second-order elections and people sometimes protest vote about national level politics. Transnational lists are the way “we lift our democracy to a continental scale” and I’m totally in favor of them. I think we need to look for the long-term benefit at the level of European Union, not to make a small-scale policy on such issues. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to empower and enlarge national parties, but I’m sure that one does not preclude the other. I believe it is time to work towards a liberal democrat transnational lists for the European elections and if there is a legal loop, it should be immediately fixed. At this moment, ALDE IMs should also play a great role and we should activate ourselves to this direction. Let’s do it! Let’s make our Europe great! Let’s make it liberal and bright!

 

ALDE Individual Members Council Candidates, get to know them: Yves Robert

Let’s get to know also  ALDE Individual Members Elections candidates. Voting starts on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democras perspectives  to each of them. Now it’s up to Yves Robert from France

With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?

As an Individual Member, and specifically a National Coordinator, we have firstly to develop a strong relationship the ALDE Member Parties in each country. ALDE IM is not an organization against Parties – we must work with them. Secondly, we must develop the Individual Members Network. The unique word today in politics is “citizen”, not party. Everybody speaks “citizen”. ALDE Party understood this for a long time by creating “Individual Members”.  For each of us, each Citizen is a part of Europe, and Europe is a part of us.

The best way to stop the populism is to discuss with people day per day and explain and explain again. The best response to populism in each country is to develop discussions with citizens. Not easy, it’s background work. We have to organize events including our Member Parties and other members of the liberal family such as French parties like La Republique En Marche and MoDem, work to obtain the widest media coverage, once again is a background work.

As delegates, we have to be in touch with all Council Members to insist that politics is about fighting poverty and inequality – the mothers of populism. I believe with my experiences of international negotiator as Diplomat to be the best to be your ambassador.

 Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we should work towards transnational lists?

Definitely, yes. This is the request of the Individual Members (vote last July); Individual Members want support transnational lists for the 2024 European Elections – with 23% of voters, it’s their first request. What a shame that the European Parliament has ruled out this opportunity for next year. Today, we must send a signal to citizens: if we want a real European Parliament, we must forget national lists, and more than that all Europeans Citizens must votes on the same day in all Member States on transnational lists.

As delegates, we must be in touch with all Council Members. To insist and give the best arguments to them to promote in Council the principle and work in every country to impose the “transnational lists” is one of weapons against populist movements and give the image that European Parliament with strongly responsibilities is the most important organ of the European Structure, elected by citizens for citizens.

ALDE Individual Members Steering Comittee Candidates, get to know them: Anders Basboll

Blog activity restart after summer. Let’s get to know  Steering Comittee Elections candidates. Voting starts on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democras perspectives  to each of them

Let’s start with Anders Basboll from Denmark

With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?

The answer is Donald Trump! Just a few years back it was mainstream to reject trade in Europe – for one reason or another – due to the fear of low environmental standards, bullying partners and other bogeymen.

Now we have the good fortune that these points are now being made by the least popular US president in memory. We see that tariffs and barriers hurt the ones putting them up – due to today’s integrated supply chains, which is new, and the old, often forgotten point, that we are all not just producers, we are also consumers – and more expensive imports hurt, especially the poor. Not only tariffs, but also red tape and barriers to entry in professions are hurting the poor. The fight against cosy monopolies is pro market and pro the poor. It is simply not true that free markets only benefit the rich – they benefit the poor too, perhaps even more.

Europe is built on the four freedoms – we shall never give up on free movement of people, capital, goods, and services. It has made Europe a better place. We shall never stop telling the good stories – of cheap and wonderful goods from Europe, of the skilled immigrants who work in our countries, of our compatriots learning new skills in other EU countries and, frankly, we need to show everybody that we have control over our external borders. Otherwise, we shall lose, to populism, the invisibility of the internal borders that have benefitted us all for so long.

Likewise, we should have a common refugee policy including a way to distribute refugees between member states. The current situation where states with 200 million inhabitants discuss 200 refugees for weeks give both the impression that refugees are an unbelievable burden destroying our societies and that we have lost control over our borders.

Finally, and obviously, we never judge people on gender, race, religious affiliation or sexuality. Europe is “united in diversity” and we liberals love it!

 Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we have to work towards LibDem transnational lists

Liberals do not have great presence everywhere. I find it crucial that we do have an offering where liberal parties are thin on the ground. I think we already do, in providing a platform where liberals can meet – we should prioritise this. Who knows, maybe local liberal movements will be born?

I think it is important that these members can get as close to MEPs as possible. Last year, the idea of backing groups for MEP’s were mentioned at the congress which I haven’t heard of since, but a way for the ideas of all our members to reach our MEPs should be a major priority. We must do all we can to make it reality. Incidentally, access to MEPs could also be a major inducement for members of ALDE member parties also to join ALDE IM.

Most liberal parties have only a couple of MEPs. It would be wonderful if their ideas could reach the whole liberal group. Liberals and democrats cannot make transnational lists ourselves but – should they be implemented, we should contest them.

ALDE CONGRESS INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS DELEGATES ELECTIONS: GET TO KNOW THE CANDIDATES/3

In this post we present Individual Members candidates for the upcoming delegate for next ALDE congress. Each one present itself and then answer to another common question. This is the third and last post about them

Read the first set of inteviews here

Read the second set of interviews here

Why you are running as candidate?

DanielJansen (The Netherlands): I am running for delegate so I can actively contribute. The well aligned and thought out input of us IMs will help ALDE in the strong and constructive guiding and steering position. This supports Europeans in making our society stronger in peace, respect, democracy and prosperity. We liberals and democrats have values that benefit all humanity. My personal gain is the connections with fellow IMs and the improvement of my skills. The role of a delegate is to be in service to IMs and represent us well.

Fabrizio Livi (Italy): I chose to run as a candidate, after some years as Alde Individual member, during which I took part in almost Congresses and meeting throughout Europe, just for the desire to be more active and pro-positive to the cause of liberalism and Europeanism. An understandable desire, isn’t it? Particularly in these dark days (and nights) when the idea of a united Europe is constantly brought into question.
For what it concerns me in particular, I have always been a fervent supporter of European Unity since my remote University days, where I earned a degree with a thesis on the European Parliament.
My job in the following years was focused on something completely different but I followed the events very closely. Now I think it’s time for me to act, as I did when I was in London for the #INtogether Libdem Remain Campaign. Time to act: In Alde. For Europe. For Freedom.

Wolf Achim Wiegand (Germany): I am running as for ALDE Party Congress 2018 delegate because I want to share my expertise of 2017. Do you remember? You, the Individual Members, have last year elected me alongside Amélie Pans Privé (Belgium) and Francesca Mercanti (Italy). We have been a great team! Our combined force made it possible to make a motion carried which I had introduced… Voting for me is choosing experience and competence.
Bear in mind: Congress is a complicated matter. No less than 65 national member parties are present from Portugal until Poland, from Sweden until Slovakia, Slovenia, or Sicily. To find a majority for our
resolutions means a lot of networking, promotion and hard work before and during Congress. We really must fight hard because we are a small bunch of delegates only.
My candidacy is based on three foundations: First: on my experience as your last year’s Congress delegate. Second: on my international activities as an ALDE Party Country Coordinator. Third: on my political activities on both local and national levels with Germany’s biggest liberal party FDP. I do know how to convince the other party delegates to follow our Individual Members’ line. And I would be proud to serve you again as one in the team of the elected IM delegates. Let’s push through our politics one more time! Please vote Wolf Achim WIEGAND.

How can we make liberal parties stronger to face this moment where Europe looks at nationalism?

Daniel Jansen (The Netherlands): For me,  ‘making liberal parties stronger’ means indirectly ‘having more votes and seats in Parliament’. Yes, we need the substantial number of seats but I want to add that stronger is also in implementing our values and being the inspirator for cooperation.
Stronger in this question on nationalism means that we also have care for what our fellow citizens, the nationalistic voters want: ‘more care for own people than for other people’. This desire makes sense from the viewpoint that in current society not everyone takes full responsibility for themselves and for the society. Therefore, for some it might feel that our money is used for people who do not contribute to our society, our children or our elderly.
The proposed action plan to make liberal parties stronger (but most of all to keep Europe peaceful) is divided in short term, mid-term and long term. Short term: show people that we actually care for their problems and their welfare (in housing, jobs, health-care, safety and education); show more willingness to act fair and though in protecting the European citizen in cases like for example: diesel-gate, mis-use of personal data on the internet, organizations who undermine our democracy and parts of the financial sector who take/took too much risks with people’s money,Mid-term: the (foreign) policy and trade is aimed at increasing respect and well-being for all. Being highly dedicated to a strong and effective United Nations. That we strongly support the policy that in all areas in Europe and worldwide there is sufficient prosperity. Provide each individual enough possibilities to fulfil their potential so that conflict is not an option. For the long term: we make ALDE stronger by investing in people. Investing in the development of wisdom, in using the head-heart balance in people’s lives and choices. Educating in cooperation, in aligning, in being aware of the effect of information and educating in pursuing goals. Increase the willingness of people to take full responsibility for their lives, to have compassion for others and to act fairly.

Fabrizio Livi (Italy):It’s no easy task fighting nationalism and populism today as they seem to gain momentum and consensus day by day. Most people are fascinated by their rhetoric speeches, which are unfailingly concentrated on the most basic desires of people as, for instance, security (i.e. the fear inspired by those who are different), unemployment, the desire of something new (whatever it may be) in a break with the past. Nevertheless, the solutions proposed are as easy to propose as impossible to keep. Or simply crazy, as to abandon the Euro.
Liberal parties should, first of all, demonstrate the emptiness of these deceitful promises, with facts, numbers and the provision of laws and treaties, without trying to run after them on their field with too much similar promises.

Wolf Achim Wiegand (Germany): My advice as a European affairs journalist, blogger, politician and public relations expert is as follows:
Generally: do not underestimate the nationalists’ and populists’ ability to promote simple “solutions”. Their campaigns seem by a first view to be woodcut. But behind are concepts in a highly sophisticated manner. Nationalists and populists address fears, prejudices, and horror scenarios. We Liberals should counter that by the highest standards of campaign tools. And content wise we must promote fearlessly and clear-cut liberal values such as freedom, diversity and rule of law. Some more ideas:
1. Let us nonstop deliver our liberal messages – 24/7. We are the opposite of nationalism, we are the true European patriots!
2. Let us never try to bring our liberal standpoint in line with nationalistic paroles: voters tend to vote for the original and not for the copyist.
3. Let us self-confidentially promote international cooperation instead of narrowminded border building and let us be proud about the decades long peace we enjoy since the EU exists.
All in all: the European project certainly needs a restart, no doubt. But the sheer existence of the EU is by itself a huge positive step forward in mankind’s history. Let us be proud of this fact and communicate it again and again… I am a dedicated liberal European. And I am convinced that we can only overcome the current wave of destructiveness in European politics by 100% sticking to our positive message of liberty for everyone!

ALDE CONGRESS INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS DELEGATES ELECTIONS: GET TO KNOW THE CANDIDATES/2

In this post we present Individual Members candidates for the upcoming delegate for next ALDE congress. Each one present itself and then answer to another common question. This is the second post about them

Read the first 4 interviews here

Why you are running for candidate?

 

Anders Basbøll (Denmark): As an Individual member it is a great honour to be able to contribute to ALDE policy making. This year is especially important, since we shall adopt our manifesto for the 2019 European Elections. I have contibuted to the process by joining 2 of ALDE’s expert forums on the manifesto – on defence in Warszawa (which I took a holiday to make) where I pointed out the need for the Parliament to be included in PESCO and on International Trade in København, where I made the point that free trade has value in itself, also when unsuccessful in mitigating climate change. On both occasions I tried to update you here on facebook. Last year I gave input to our delegates concerning amendments – this year I would like to fight for you as a delegate for our important messages.

I have co-written a resolution on Climate Change with Sju Thorup (thanks!) on the need to get all emissions under the ETS quota system (stop exemptions for agriculture, transportation and construction) – this is needed both in order to take our share in Europe,but also to let us do it as efficiently as possible. I have also contributed to a resolution from René Petersen (thanks!) on an ALDE primary for Spitzenkandidaten. What could be more important than saving our planet and creating a grassroot European democracy? In 2014 Parliament won a power struggle and chose th eCommission President. This time this could be challenged, but if Parliament prevails again it will be a well established procedure. It was the ”spitzenkandidaten” which made the difference. A primary is essential to strengthen it. I think it is very important that our delegates are ready to negotiate with the parties on whatever amendments can bring a Primary (or, should this fail, at least a clear yes to Spitzenkandidaten) through. I have experience from national congresses, but also from LYMEC congresses where I have been a delegate (and chaired one aswell).

Nadia Bennis (France): I was predisposed from birth to become a true European: French national, born and raised bilingual in Germany in an international environment, I graduated in European studies and international relations in the UK, including the typical Erasmus exchange, before embarking on a European journey in Brussels, working in political affairs for several years before finally adopting Madrid as my home. I could not really escape to learn and speak several languages, live with and adapt to different cultures, enjoying the amicability and cheerfulness of each country and uniting all these experiences which certainly shaped my personality, enabling me to feel at home wherever I am and make me contribute
to an intercultural exchange to bring us Europeans closer. Besides my passion for politics, I think that my multicultural background and great ability for intercultural exchange could be great assets to represent you at the Congress and work hand in hand with people from all over Europe.

Jude Deakin (United Kingdom):  The primary motivation for me to stand for election as a delegate to the ALDE Congress, is my ability to provide a unique perspective on the disruptive impact of the Brexit vote on the United Kingdom and guidance on what it could be like for others, should their countries contemplate leaving.
On the morning of 24 June 2016 I woke up to the devastating news that my country had voted to leave the European Union. Although the European Union is not perfect, I believe it is far better for us to work together within it, than to try and effect change from outside of it. As one of the 48% who voted to remain, I felt a great sense of loss. I am a proud Liberal Democrat and I didn’t recognise my country anymore. Almost immediately after the announcement of the result, the mood within the UK shifted. There was less patience, less tolerance, less unity and increasing hatred, abuse and unrest.
That was the start of my ALDE IM journey; I simply couldn’t and wouldn’t give up my European identity without a fight. I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Congress in Warsaw and again in Amsterdam last year. Having the opportunity to talk and share ideas with like-minded people from across the 28 countries was wonderful and a real inspiration. These meetings gave me the strength and encouragement to carry on the fight, through talking to ‘remainers’, tweeting and posting pro-European items on social media, and attending protest marches in London, my next one being on the 23 rd June.

Silvia Fernandez (Spain):  For a long time, I felt disappointed with national politics of my country. I didn’t feel as a party truly represented me at the time. I thought that instead of being completely passive, I should try and do something. And so I decided to study Law and Political Sciences, because I wanted to understand how decisions and policy are made, how institutions work – how the world works. Not long after, I found ALDE and the Individual Members. ‘I feel at home’, I thought. A bit over 3 years later, and the IMs are still dear to my heart.

I would love to be a delegate for the IMs because I believe that they are a key member of the ALDE party. I believe that their voices should be heard as loud as the party members’ voices are. It would be an honour to represent and defend the IMs best interests and ideas at the upcoming congress in my home country. We have achieved much, and slowly but steady we are increasing our presence in the party, and in Europe. But we can only go forward. Europe needs more people like the IMs, people whose ideas are all about openness, transparency, tolerance, solidarity, and opportunities for everybody. I think we should strive for making an impact on Europe, now more than ever when our ‘home’ is facing so many challenges. And I would love to be a part of it.

Dimitris Mitrou (Greece): I am a new member from Greece, and I want to help the Αlde party IMs to share their ideas and proposals, with as many people as possible. I also want to help so that the upcoming Congress in Madrid, will be successful and productive.
I assure you of my commitment to the cause of uniting the European countries, in a strong and successful federation, which will be able to address the challenges of a new globalized economy,
in an era of intense social changes.
My candidacy will also give me the opportunity, to share views and opinions with the other candidates and IMs. I also stand for delegate, so I could learn more about the democratic functions of ALDE party, so I can have a personal view about how, this great political organization works. I am an engineer and an elected member of general assembly of Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE-TCG), and by representing engineers for many years, I have a pretty
good experience of forming resolutions and amendments, and I want to use this experience in order to help the synthesis of political opinions and proposals in ALDE party, towards the congress in Madrid.
Some of the issues that I think the ALDE party upcoming Congress must face, are the: aid to the Rule of Law and ensuring equality before the European treaties and laws, for all citizens in the EU.; removal of restrictions in education; fight against majoritarian issues in the exercise of executive power, in parliamentary work and in the function of trade unions; protection of minority rights, from discrimination in the name of the “established”; opinion of the majority; scientific rational approach in dealing with issues without a social historical background

Diana Severati (Italy): My name is Diana Severati, 41, European, Italian, born in Milan and living in Rome. When I was a student I was a  member of AIESEC (and treasurer of the Rome Sapienza Local Committee), a student run organization founded in 1948, after World War II, by seven students from different European countries with the dream of building cross-cultural understanding across nations and to change the world. I love traveling. So strange, isn’t it?  As a member of that organization in the late ‘90s I had the opportunity to participate to some meetings organized by UNOPS, UNDP and the Italian Cooperation for some decentralized cooperation programs like the PDHL Cuba and Tunisia.
I was a member of Fare per Fermare il Declino (Do to Stop the Decline), a political party running in the last European elections in the list (Scelta europea con Guy Verhofstadt (European Choice with Guy Verhofstadt) and  Scelta Civica (Civic Choice) and Radicali Italiani. I have been a candidate for More Europe in the last political elections in Italy. I’m a member of Forza Europa and of the Rome local group of the Pulse of Europe initiative. I’m also the new elected Individual Members coordinator for the Central Italy region.
I would love to participate to the ALDE Party Congress works as a delegate, on behalf of the Individual Members, and to contribute to shaping our liberal and federal Europe, an open society based on economic freedom and civil rights.
I would love to participate to the ALDE Party Congress works as a delegate, on behalf of the Individual Members, and to contribute to shaping our liberal and federal Europe, an open society based on economic freedom and civil rights. Ibelieve that each individual could contribute to the betterment of the world and that we, Individual Members, should unleash our potential.

How can we make liberal parties stronger to face this moment where Europe looks at nationalism?

Anders Basbøll (Denmark): It is very important that people feel that they are stakeholders. That is why I will fight hard for the Spitzenkandidaten – and to open the process with a liberal primary, that all our members proudly can tell they have participated in. It shall not be ”Those people in Brussels”. It is us. I will also vote in favor of proposals where the Commission President can choose her commissioners. If that were to happen, it would be easier to vote against the EU government, without voting against the EU (just as for national elections, people vote for or against the government (not the state itself). The twin of nationalism is protectionism – which must be fought by again and again explaining the virtues of a free market economy – of all the miracles produced by human ideas and hard work, when allowed to flourish. And how trade makes everybody richer and make people in different countries or continents contribute to each other’s welfare instead of going to war over wealth.

Nadia Bennis (France): Unfortunately, we do not all have the same opinions and reflections upon Europe. Our ideal to have a peaceful, united nation of Europeans is facing increasingly an Eurosceptic view and a rise of nationalism. Whereas some consider globalisation as an opportunity, others see it as a threat, which is fuelling the nationalist, extreme-right wing and populist debate to which people
identify because it makes them feel safer in an era of economic instability and high unemployment rates across Europe.
We are at a turning point where we need to take immediate action to reconcile EU citizens with the EU and manage efficiently the increase of nationalism. EU Member States need a stronger cooperation and share responsibilities in order  to be able to tackle issues such as immigration, climate change, threat of terrorism, education, pensions, international trade, etc. We need to boost employment, be more innovative, creative and promote international trade. European Liberals are stronger to face this time when Europe looks at nationalism because they can offer a realistic, innovative and international economic programme in line with promoting employment, security and the welfare of EU-citizens.

Jude Deakin (United Kingdom):I believe it is vitally important for the citizens of Europe and the UK that we continue to have a voice and a seat at the European table. Please do not dismiss us completely because of this advisory referendum, within which both Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May didn’t have the courage to disregard, even though they were both ‘remainers’!
The understanding now, is that Brexit was voted for by many of the
disenfranchised lower paid workers and the unemployed, the families in need of good housing that felt disregarded, and the poorer sections of society that felt left behind. The leave campaigners primarily targeted these groups by exploiting
their fears through the use of false truths and rhetoric, proliferated by the media, blaming the country’s problems on the European Union. There were false promises of extra funding if we left that would alleviate these problems, a basis on which many people voted to leave. We need to work together to prevent this from happening again, through education and promotion of media literacy.
It has always been the liberal way to speak up for the vulnerable and less fortunate, but have we really been listening? The Brexit vote would suggest that we have not. The political landscape across Europe is shifting and it’s essential that the liberal parties across Europe now stand strong together, with openhearts and minds, taking action to truly engage with the disengaged.

Silvia Fernandez (Spain): The problem with nationalists and populists in general is that they believe that Europe is not working, that it is broken and they want to see it burn to the ground. Well, against that hard-line and dangerous attitude I believe there is only one thing we can do: stand together and fight.

Problems such as unemployment, the refugee crisis, sustainability, terrorism… are all trasversal and global issues that affect all Member States, and the Union as a whole. It would be irresponsible to even think that we shouldn’t tackle all these together. Populists do not have faith in the Union, and because of that we need to think of ways on how we can build a more efficient and more united Union. I think we might need to think outside the box and try to find ways on how to bring the EU closer to the people, how to make it more tangible and accessible to them. I believe this is the first step to regain the trust and confidence of the European citizens. It is not so much about using the power, but how we use it. Renew the use and engagement of Europe and liberal parties, with the people. Follow the politics of ‘hope’ and ‘optimism’ instead of the politics of ‘pessimism’.

Dimitris Mitriou (Greece):  We must spread our ideas about integration of Europe accessible, to as many as people as possible. We must also inform them about the basics of the European Union. How many European citizens know anything about concepts like “Acquis communautaire” and their rights? Informing the people about Europe, is the first step to build the European citizenship. I think that the concept of ALDE PARTY IMs, is all about engaging the European citizens in that political process.
At the same time liberal citizens and parties in Europe must also work together in order to protect ethnic or other minority rights, from discrimination in the name of the “established” opinion of the majority. Also, equality before the European laws for all citizens, is essential to fight the powers of isolationism, in the European Countries. There is a lot of work ahead for achieving this goal. I am
glad that I will cooperate with other ALDE party IMs, for this important cause!

Diana Severati (Italy): Far Right ethnonationalism and populism and are ever advancing in Europe. In Italy the Lega (League) and the Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five Stars Movement) has won the last political elections and have formed the so called “Government of Change” with an unrealistic and unrealizable program. Propaganda unfortunately works and the anti-EU parties often receive supports from Putin’s Russia. Liberal parties  should be able not only to make proposals but also to communicate them effectively: the should use positive messages and never stop spreading the values of the open society, more than ever. Instead of talking of competitors with negative words we should focus on contents and communicate them with the right and positive words. It is important to avoid to be perceived as an elite. To do so is necesssary to be present on the territory, to run local initiatives, to talk to people and to involve them. It takes time but it has to be done. We can’t let nationalism destroy Europe.

ALDE Congress Individual Members delegates elections: get to know the candidates

In this post we present Individual Members candidates for the upcoming delegate for next ALDE congress. Each one present itself and then answer to another common question. The post will be updated as the answers of the various candidates arrive.

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Why you are running for candidate?

CHRISTINA ANDERSSON (Sweden):  As a European citizen, I believe in a United Europe. I believe in true liberal values and freedom to create a sustainable community based on core values such as freedom of expression, free movement and dignity for all regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.Unfortunately, this is not what we see in today’s Europe where we have a democracy that has failed and therefore must be reviewed and reversed.We need a new common value base for preserving and creating peace, an confidence in humanity, and dedication and willingness to preserve our earth.We must learn how to listen, to mankind …. I do believe we have forgotten to really listen due to lack of time in a busy system.It is very important to find the core values again such as value for the family, respect for others to be able and to let people live in dignity across the globe and to make it possible.How to make it possible? I believe first and foremost we must reunite all the families who have/still are being divided apart with compulsion,which creates a void that is easily filled with hatred against humanity.

ROBERT CRANE (France): I have been an interculturalist since the age of six. At six, I saw the pain inflicted on the Japanese peasants by a well-meaning occupying U.S. Army. I realized that two peoples with different cultures can misunderstand and hurt each other unintentionally and even without realizing it. Starting then, I worked toward graduate degrees in three countries (U.S., U.K., and France) to acquire the skills to help people understand their own culture and those of others. I have now worked in some sixty different countries and with several aboriginal peoples and religions.
Thus, I believe that the very real issues which divide peoples and nations within the European Union can be reduced if not resolved by dialog and cultural understanding. I also feel that a stronger E.U. structure – perhaps federalism – would facilitate positive solutions to these problems. Similarly the positive effects of a strong liberal economy should be diffused across member nations and social groups.
Our values as Europeans vary. I lived in Hungary and saw that the values of Central Europe were not totally aligned with those of Western Europe. Yet certain fundamental values define us all within the E.U.. Democracy and human rights are among those values. As an Alde delegate, I would do my best to further these basic European values while taking into account our cultural differences.

MATHEUS DE PAULA COSTA (Portugal): I am running for candidate because I believe in Europe and in liberalism. Two years ago, I got shocked with Brexit, how in an increasingly globalized world people can choose an isolationist alternative? Although the European Union has some weaknesses, this is the most successful project of peace and prosperity in the world. So, instead of keeping seated in my studying chair for my degree in International Relations and then my MSc in International Economics and European Studies, I decided to use my knowledge and willingness to change the world to prevent the advancement of populists. I felt that was my obligation to do something to allow that, in the future, people with the same spirit and courage as the founding fathers of the EU materialize the perfect union that all Europeans dream about.

A Europe that is generous and open to people from all over the world. Where diversity and difference are not only existing but are respected. A place where everyone can dream of a better future. A present which we fight for a more sustainable society, allowing future generations to have access to nature and resources.

As I have stated in my motivation, I want to actively make sure that a message of diversity, inclusion, of a union for a better future, and opportunities for all Europeans has a voice during the Congress.

BIRGIT LENZ (Spain): My name is Birgit Lenz, 53 years, born in Germany, now living in Spain. My ancestors came from Poland and Chechia. By the education of my parents and the model of my grandmother I grew up with a pro-European standing. The union of the European states was above all for my grandmother the only correct answer to the crimes of the Nazi regime. As the campaign now „I wants Europe“ by the participant endowments under the patronage of Federal Presidents Joachim Gauck started, I was involved, of course.
On the 20th of April, 2013 we were Civil Ambassadors in the castle Bellevue to the Bellevue forum invited. Europe must be carried by his citizens, not by the politics.The citizen is the sovereign.

How can we make liberal parties stronger to face this moment where Europe looks at nationalism?

CHRISTINA ANDERSSON (Sweden): We are entering a new digital era where we must put this values as number one. There will be so much free time to spend due to the new technologies which will replace many jobs but also create many new opportunities. Therefore it is of most importance that we learn to live, to be creative and to use our skills.  And very important is to use our skills with good intentions, in a good way. I believe this is a huge challenge to the world but could wisely used, be one way to combat nationalism.

ROBERT CRANE (France): I hold two nationalities – American and French. As a result, I find myself confronted by both the Far Right tendencies of Trump’s America as well as the same trends in several countries here in Europe. Apparently the violence of the Second World War was not sufficient to drive home to us the dangers of extreme nationalism as exemplified by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Tojo, and others. Let us pray that another war is not needed in the 21st century to stop these same forces.
As I mentioned, I have lived and worked in Central Europe and also worked in Russia and Ukraine. Clearly, the source of much Far Right propaganda and online manipulation comes from Russia. This behavior must be both stopped and countered. In the Visegrad nations (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic), countering the rightward shift is more difficult still since these countries are within the E.U.. The objection to Muslim immigration here is deep seated and stems from past invasion and war with the Ottoman Empire. However, history is no excuse, as the very formation of the E.U. to stop warfare in Western Europe illustrates. George Soros, my immediate boss in Hungary, has shown that democratic values can be fostered in this part of the world, even if he is currently vilified by the Orban government.
Finally, in Western Europe, the newly elected government in Italy is largely a visceral reaction to the lack of a coordinated E.U. policy toward immigration. The Italians have borne the brunt of it. On the other hand, the new Spanish government has accepted a boatload of recent immigrants and is likely to take more. Again, a coordinated policy by a stronger E.U. government is a fundamental step to resolving the major issues of both populism and immigration.

 

MATHEUS DE PAULA COSTA (Portugal): Thanks to my education and experience (I am Executive Secretary in an Asian Studies research center and Member of the National Council of Iniciativa Liberal (the Portuguese Liberal Party)), I have some ideas on how we can make parties stronger to address this problem.

First, transparency and citizen participation. People all over the world are tired of politicians who look elitist in the decision-making process. For so, they feel distant from decisions, and populists take advantage of this feeling of distance. In Portugal, it is very usual for populists to promote the idea that Brussels has a social distance from citizens, calling the EU a cold and undemocratic system which is unable to feel and solve problems of ordinary people. The decision-making in the EU is so complex that allows populists to spread these types of lies throughout Europe. Therefore, I think that liberal parties will be stronger if they talk with citizens and create alternatives to turn the decision-making process in the EU more understandable to citizens.
 
Another relevant task is to pave the way for citizens to be able to enjoy the Information Revolution which we are living. Populists have existed throughout history, and at all places, they grow in times of political, social, and economic changes. They have the same speech, come back to the past, by spreading lies as the past was more prosperous, peaceful and secure. They will only succeed if we fail to show to citizens that nationalism leads to poverty, lack of democracy and discrimination.  I think that we should actively combat their lies and make citizens overcome new challenges.

BIRGIT LENZ (Spain): Europe is at the moment in a difficult situation. We as a liberal party had to show to the citizens of Europe, that only Europe is the answer. We need more Europe not less. We have to change the direction. The points bellow show some possibilities.
Employee’s generosity Every employee has the right to move freely within the United States of Europe and to work. All graduation and occupational ends are accepted, because they are on one level. Hence, every employee or independent makes the identical remuneration.
Social system There is a social system in Europe and the contributions are graded after income, but are identical otherwise. Employees and independent, as well as officials should deposit at this system equally.
Culture The regions within the United States of Europe have different cultural circumstances. These are the respective treasures of a region and must be protected. They are the true wealth of the United States of Europe if one refrains sometimes from the people.
The person in himself is in the foreground, all other has to submit to him. The dignity of the person is untouchable. The protection of children and weak is the duty every of fellow citizen. Every child is the child of everybody and stands under his protection.
Politics of Prices and Income Because everybody has the identical prerau’s settlements in the United States of
Europe, there also are the identical prices and incomes everywhere. All citizens must be able to live with their income.
Society The society of the United States of Europe exerts itself for the people of this world. It is open for the interests of the other continents.
I think, only the liberal movements are able to stop the nationalism in Europe.

The rebirth of Liberalism in Ireland

In this contribution, Ciarán Hehir, ALDE Individual Member, twenty one years old and entering his final year of my Politics and International Relations degree in the University of Limerick, talks about the rebirth of Liberalism in his Country.

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Ciarán Hehir

Two weeks ago, the Irish people were asked to vote in a referendum to remove an article ensuring a ban on abortion that had been added to the constitution thirty-five years ago. In those thirty-five years, it had caused countless women nothing short of trauma and shame. The referendum had followed another momentous vote, only two years ago, when the people legalised same-sex marriage.

These changes, monumental considering Ireland’s past, are a result of the rebirth of liberalism in the country. Liberalism, mainly economic, was first born in the 1980’s depression and while its legacy is questioned after the financial and banking crises that rocked the country in the late 2000s, it no doubt transformed Ireland from one of western Europe’s poorest countries into a modern, advanced country with a rapidly growing economy. Today, social liberalism has replaced the oppression of social conservatism that had ruled the Republic since its inception.

To talk of Irish conservatism is to talk of the Irish Catholic Church. The Church became the institution most associated with Irish nationalism and when Ireland achieved independence from the United Kingdom, it became the bedrock of political, social and economic life of the new state. Ireland was a theocracy in all but name, having exchanged the King for the Pope.

The crushing oppression of this Church-sponsored conservatism is still being felt to this day. From the stories of women who were held captive in the Magdalene Laundries – the last of which closed in 1992 – and subjected to forced labour to the censorship imposed by the Censorship of Publications Board, which still exists, and which established by the Committee on Evil Literature in 1922 to prevent the decay of public morality by ‘obscene’ foreign literature.

Social liberalism briefly shone through the darkness of Irish society in the 1970s with the Supreme Court ruling that a ban on contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. This ruling, coupled with the recent Roe v. Wade ruling in the United States, fuelled fears that an activist Supreme Court was beginning to undo the conservative regime. To combat this, Article 40.3.3., or as it is today more popularly known as the Eighth Amendment, was inserted into the constitution resulting in a total ban on abortion on Irish soil.

However, by the 1990s numerous scandals rocked the Catholic Church and its authority over Ireland began to wane. Rights to information and travel for abortion were won as was a tightly fought referendum on divorce as a result. The repeal of the Eighth Amendment has definitively removed the idea that Ireland remains a small conservative country on the fringe of Europe. The referendum has transformed Ireland into a truly modern, secular, tolerant society finally at parity with its European peers. The definitive nature of the vote has also energised campaigns to remove other archaic clauses in the constitution such as blasphemy and the place of the woman in the home.

Through liberalism, Ireland has finally matured enough to face the mistakes of its past but also mature enough to address them. The central tenets of liberalism – freedom, liberty and tolerance – are alive and well in Ireland at a time when many are turning away from these in favour of protectionism, nationalism and mutual suspicion.

Ireland can now help lead the way to fight for liberal values against these spectres for a more free, liberal Europe and world.

Ciarán Hehir

Spain, european patriotism and autonomous communities

In this piece,  ALDE IM Spain Coordinator,  Miguel Angel Sepulveda, considers the situation of liberalism in his country, and the presence of nationalism in the Autonomous Communities.

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Please note that this piece represents the personal views and opinions of Miguel Angel Sepulveda (ALDE IM Spain Coordinator)

INTRO

We are one year away from the European polls. They will also coincide with autonomous regions and municipal elections, which will be an indicator (again) of the local and national agenda, not of the wider European one. Spain have only a recent liberal political tradition, and that is one of the reasons of the rising of the phenomenon of nationalism in our country, irrespective of whether the Spanish, Basque, Andalusian or Catalan adjectives are used. We, as convinced European liberals, must set a clear distinction between patriotism and nationalism, bringing the idea of the European Union closer to the way in which citizens perceive patriotic ideals.

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We are one year away from the Spanish vote within the European polls on 26 May 2019. Looking to that day, all political parties are beginning to show signs of pre-campaign activity but, at least in the case of Spain, not for the light blue ballot, used to vote for the European Parliament, but for the white and light purple ballots, corresponding to the autonomous and municipal elections, respectively, that will also be held that day.

Europe is trying to get closer to the citizens, especially since the beginning of the economic crisis, which also resulted in a crisis of institutions and values, but that is still perceived as very distant by the citizens. In the last European elections in 2014, in Spain the focus was on the national agenda, also where white ballots associated with the Congress of Deputies were used; this time everything suggests that the vote will be more focused on the autonomous and local level. In short, whether they are held on their own or along with other elections, the the messages coming from these electoral campaigns never manage to either adopt the European perspective or give these elections the importance they truly deserve.

Furthermore, Spain  only have a recent liberal political tradition. At least if it is understood as a vision of humanity and society based on the affirmation of the human personal condition; on individual freedom as the foundation of social and political freedom. The phenomenon of nationalism in our country has been, and is, clear evidence of this, regardless of whether the Spanish, Basque, Andalusian or Catalan adjectives are used. Because wearing the colours of a flag, showing them in complements or just flying the actual flag, and singing or humming the anthem of your region or your country, can be considered nationalism or patriotism depending exclusively on what it represents to whomever takes such action. The gesture itself carries no weight. The same applies to those watching. So what is the difference? Patriotism is the bond created with your homeland, an entity that represents all of us through the civic principles and the institutions that define it. Nationalism, however, is loyalty to the group to which you belong, with whom you envisage a common origin or language, regardless of the values they represent. Therefore, the more daily and tangible the territorial entity is, the more difficult it is to separate the attachment to these values from the feelings and emotions for what surrounds us and their people.

This is our reality and, in view of this situation, we, as convinced European liberals, must work to move the idea of the European Union away from state sovereignty and nationalism, and devote all our efforts to bring the idea of the European Union closer to the citizens themselves,  collectively and individually, since European values are always relatively close but inevitably distant for what they represent: patriotic ideals to aspire to, a Europea as Homeland where we recognize ourselves. Nationalism has no part in – and can only be destructive too –  our European Union.

Miguel Angel Sepulveda