“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

 

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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

What the Maastricht Conference can teach us!

In this contribution, Thalia Ntoka, ALDE Party individual member from Greece and also a member of the Steering Committee refers to the recent conference in Maastricht, organised 25 years after the Treaty which gave birth to the European Union.

While travelling from Athens to northern European countries, usually the first thing comes to mind while packing, is ‘what kind of clothes shall I take with me?’

This time was different! My first priority was to represent the best I could our Individual Members and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of the European Union.

Beyond our excellent speakers who really succeeded in motivating the young generation by explaining all those wonders we achieved the last 25 years, the fringe meetings we attended, offered us a great chance to get to know us better and share our thoughts regarding Europe’s future, the Euro and the importance of the Individual Membership.

It proved that the ALDE Party we belong to, rely on us and our work and as our President Hans Van Baalen pointed out, we are the salt and pepper of the party and that means a lot for our future.

Allow me to share with you some thoughts we managed to gather with Daniel Tanahatoe after coordinating our workshop regarding the Individual Members.

It is important to keep in mind that we form a unique mixture from people who live across Europe, with different ideas, experiences, living standards, perceptions of the way we should work but, we definitely have more in common.

We share the same values, we want our big family to stay united, we cannot stand populism, we want more participation and the most important, we are willing to spend time in order to succeed!

Maybe sometimes we take for granted that everyone who joins the ALDE individual members, will have the same questioning but once again, we realised that this is not true. For instance, a new member from Italy shared with us the main reason why she joined. She cannot stand the obstacles those who run her country put in people’s lives on some serious living matters and was wondering whether we could find a solution by getting help from other European countries.

Also someone who is not a member yet, was trying to figure out how he could fit in our group since his real job is not politically oriented and how much time should he spend.

For us diversity means creativity. It means various ideas, arguments, proposals so everyone is more than welcome to join.

We were so happy to hear from you who attended the workshop, about your reflection regarding Europe, your ideas on how to grow our membership and help national liberal parties to become stronger and how we should expand the liberal footprint in Europe.

The feedback we got from you was about having better communication among us, work harder on specific topics offering concrete solutions, become the driven force to our countries, develop national lines and integrate those steps which increase our visibility to our world.

The new Steering Committee will not only have to continue the work we’ve done so far, but simply to do much more.

Our world is continuously evolving. It doesn’t mean always for the best and we should accept it. We cannot deny what is happening around us. Even if we feel that we live in dark periods of our history, that should not stop us from keep working in the right direction. It is in our hands, to transform all those threats to reaction. Reaction for hope and unity. We should be the messengers of European stability.

It is important for our existence to have the biggest participation on the campaigns, events, resolutions, that will follow in the next years.

Our mandate must not just be kind words without action.

We should think of what we wish to change. Is it maybe the way we treat our environment? We support less bureaucracy? Is it the education we get that bothers us? The pensions maybe? Something else? 

Do we feel that there are countries with limited liberal support and we want to strengthen our presence? We want Brexit to be prevented? Then we should campaign!

It is important for us to know what our members ideas are, so do not hesitate to contact us, to participate, to disagree, to argue, to celebrate.

It’s time to implement our strategy plan and we shall succeed, only with your participation!

PS1: The Maastricht Conference would never succeeded without those people who spent time and so much effort to make it happen!

Special thanks to our coordinators and organizers: Bert Zweers, Pascal Jacobs, Michel Schutter, Robert Schliessler and all those who worked tirelessly.

Also to our speakers: Our President, Mr. Hans Van Baalen, Mr. Bovens, Mr. Andrew Duff and all our guests including Daniel Tanahatoe, Individual Members most valuable helpful hand.

PS2: Here you can find my complete closing speech: https://youtu.be/Fpi8XkVcGqU

Thalia Ntoka

 

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

THE OCCIDENT AND IDENTITY: TWO YEARS LATER

In this contribution, Dr Sid Lukkassen, an individual member from The Netherlands, asks whether his book, written in Dutch and published two years ago, Avondland en Identiteit, is still relevant today. Risen to prominence in recent times in Dutch public debate, Sid in his book pleas for a political strategy and identity that is rooted in self-confidence, while also contemplating the question of the role liberalism plays in the decline as well as in any possible renaissance. 

As a young city council member for the VVD, I made my debut in 2015 with the book Avondland and Identiteit (Aspekt). The book draws attention from influential people. Prime Minister Mark Rutte posed with it while Dr Thierry Baudet wrote the introduction for the reprint. I was invited to speak in the European Parliament by ALDE Party individual members. Applying its analysis on Europe today: is it still relevant?

‘Avondland’ (in German: Abendland) is the overarching concept for the culture of the European civilization. The Abendland signifies the western sphere where the sun disappears after sunset. For the European Union, this sunset may be proverbial: thinking about Brexit, the debt crisis in the southern member states, and the discussion about constitutional reforms in Poland. Together with the migration crisis, these factors create the perfect storm that could end the European Union.

European self-esteem

The book is my plea for a political strategy and identity that is rooted in self-confidence while also contemplating the question of the role liberalism plays in the decline as well as in any possible renaissance. When I published the book in 2015, I was optimistic about the European project – marching Russian boots, the threat of Islamic extremism, China’s neo-colonialism and ethnical tensions in our cities would be the wake-up call for European citizens and their representatives. My expectation was that within a few years, Europe would restore its self-esteem and through that formulate a realistic approach to geopolitics.

The opposite has happened. By manipulating the migration crisis and European feelings of guilt, while supporting its ‘storm troopers’ in European cities, Turkish President Erdogan  blackmails the European Commission. The idea of a solid foreign policy through the unity of Europe has failed completely. Despite the acquisition of bonds by the ECB, monetary easing and the European Stability Mechanism, the economic outlooks are grim as well. Great amounts of financial aid are flowing back to financial institutions instead of helping economies in need. The resulting inflation damages the middle-class and their savings. In the midst of this, the British have lost all hope and resigned from the project.

The end of liberty

The explanation of the rise in popularity of Trump, Farage, Hofer or Beppe Grillo by mainstream political parties and media remains one-sided without self-reflection. These forces immediately claim the role of authentic moral resistance, while at the same time promoting the interests of the increasingly distrusted status quo.

Meanwhile, Merkel, Timmermans, and Zuckerberg cooperate to “eliminate hate speech on the internet”, aided by others such as Google CEO Eric Schmidt and George Soros. The latter financially supports Correctiv, which is supported by Facebook and German law to “remove messages from doubtful origins”, especially “negative stories on migrants”. Who determines what is fake news and what is truth? Who defines these criteria is ultimately a question of political power. People who haven’t experienced higher education, and who fail to voice their concerns adequately, will be frightened to voice their opinions due to this imminent censorship. They will be disconnected from the political debate and take their revenge in the voting booth.

Those we call “elite” today –those in control of the judicial systems, top-ranking public officials, media-moguls and CEOs – do not experience the negative consequences of these changes. They live in a safe and wealthy environment; their children enjoy the best education. They are mobile and are always able to escape the situation that may arise if civil society collapses. Psychiatrist Dr Esther van Fenema published about the cosmopolitan elite: the view of highly educated people in secure office buildings. From their privileged position, they survey the burkas that slowly but steadily fill the streets.

Ethnical tensions and economic resentment 

In Brussels I could see it with my own eyes. At the Berlaymont, where European Commission civil servants work, a secured parking garage was built. Made possible by the taxpayer. The rest of the people have to park somewhere on the streets. If damages to property occur, perhaps due to vandalism, the people request better law enforcement and more police. In response, they will hear that they should not “live their lives in fear”, that they have a “authoritarian worldview”, and they should “open their hearts towards their fellow men”. At the end of the day, these officials drive out of the secured parking lots. I mention this anecdotal evidence so that you may recognize the rhetoric and understand the class interests that are the basis for these statements.

Besides the ever increasing ethnical tensions within Europe, the economic resentment creates another problem: the disappearing of small retail, where the young used to gain their first working experiences in order to become middle class later in life. It is there where they learned the work ethics that defined the middle class. Nowadays these small business are replaced by multinationals that can avoid taxation through mailbox companies and legal loopholes.

Better prospects of work do not elevate the position of the young, but instead they are worsened through zero-hour contracts and financially inadequate internships/traineeships. In all the LYMEC and ALDE conferences I have attended between my twenties and thirties, I seldom heard young representatives voice this concern, which defines the struggle of our generation. These traineeships are being sold as “investment in your career”, while they supress their income and compete with workers who have completed the same education and now have to pay off their loans. This situation is detrimental for the formation of families – a vital topic I see ignored by many young cosmopolitans, which in turn increases the problems of demographic decomposition and ageing. Whilst problematic for one, employers see the demographic explosion of Africa – Nigeria alone will host 440 million people in 2050 according to forecasts of the United Nations.

Politics degenerates into emotional storytelling

All the while these substantial problems persist, the status quo tries to seduce voters with rhetoric and imagery language. As I’ve shown in my latest book Democracy and her Media, voters do not receive a coherent set of ideas but are the recipients of associative imagery.[3] The beauty of football matches, successful Olympic Games or recreational life on the terrace are used to distract people from social tensions. The imagery is as follows: pleasure above principle. The Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han, explains how our demise is sold to us as a form of optimism: compulsory positivism with a ‘double-think’ vocabulary where failures are redefined as ‘learning experiences’ and the loss of individual rights are called ‘challenges’. Loss of security is framed as ‘agility’ or ‘flexibility’. The compulsory positivism of society supresses reasonable worries into a taboo: especially the concerns that cause people to think about cultural cohesion and national sovereignty.

We must conclude that Liberalism has the duty to defend the ‘Avondland’ from collapsing. After all, the philosophy of liberalism was born out of the need to defend freedom of thought and speech.

Dr Sid Lukkassen

 

 

 

[1] De Blauwe Tijger, 2017. ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen MEP (VVD) said about this: “A sharp analysis about the influence of the new technologies of communication on the political decision making in Western democracies; at the same time about the ways in which these technologies derail decision making.”