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.

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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

AN OPEN LETTER TO FELLOW LIBERALS

In this contribution, Anja Fabiani, ALDE Individual Member and former president of Liberal Democracy of Slovenia describes the liberal situation in her country, just two days before political elections of June 3rd.

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More than a year ago I was elected as a president of Liberal Democracy of Slovenia – LDS. My aim was to reconstitute liberal party with rich history in Slovenia and to contribute to the development of liberal democracy in Slovenia. Under the play of circumstances I had to resign shortly after.

I believe in liberal democracy, part of me was always a dissident. I listened to punk with the generations who departed from communism and the totalitarian system of Ex- Yugoslavia. Punk was part of our protest, I was of the opposition in the times when the others were position. I am liberal democrat today in Slovenia, where there is no longer popular to be a liberal democrat. I am an individual.

I understand people who today defend the red star in Slovenia, from the point of view of rebellion.

I do not defend the red star, but I do not want right wing parties. Soon we will have elections in Slovenia. Polarisation seems to get more intense.

“Slovenia, our land”, was a slogan of our independence. I am from the family of foreigners. I am only partly Slovenian by nationality. I am an Italian aristocrat and Hungarian Gipsy, among others. Is it possible to tolerate?

I believe in liberal values, in the path of middle, of ratio and understanding. I do not like political extremes. But I like acceptance of differences, all differences. Understanding of Individual and his / her personal fortune. Also individual fortunes of people innocently killed in Slovenia after Second World War. Is it possible to understand such a stance? Is it possible to tolerate?

What does it mean, to be a litmus paper for tolerance? Are litmus papers for tolerance LGBT+ rights? Too many times I have seen lifted eyebrow: “Yes, I am progressive, but gays and lesbians… they exaggerate.” You know, what does it mean?

Are litmus papers for tolerance rights of immigrants? The more political the question gets the more we have to defend them. Because immigrants cannot be allowed to become political weapon.

The weakest members of society cannot be a political weapon. Quite the opposite; exactly trampling on them show the germs of neo- Nazism, of neo- fascism. This is the very core which should be stopped immediately.

I believe in liberal democracy which could be renewed in the spirit of true freedom, true solidarity, understanding of different cultures and social stratums. In non-ideological liberal democracy. In liberal democracy, based on development and science, always corrected by ethics. In liberal democracy, which does not exclude any faith beliefs, but is critical to the abuse of religion. I believe in liberal democracy of marginal groups. I believe in liberal democracy which does not prevent, but enable. Which does not discriminate. Which does not close the borders. Which does not make political capital out of poverty and humiliation. I believe in human liberal democracy, which is able to put barriers to expansion and has a common sense of healthy self- criticism. And more and more I believe in renewal.

Slovenia needs such liberal democracy. Italy needs such liberal democracy. Balkan needs such liberal democracy. The one, who does not see changing society, is blind. This is smart liberalism; adapting to the context of society. And people will understand.

I believe in Europe.

I have just returned from Latin America. I was not a tourist. I was one of them; I wanted to feel how their lives are. More than felt I have experienced their poverty, misery, stamped dignity, but defying in pride; despite. I was in the heart of demonstration. I went out of comfort zone.

When turning back to Europe, I was ashamed. Ashamed of all privileges, which we have and are not aware of. I cannot be ashamed to be born on this beautiful continent; but I could do more in awareness rising of its worth and by trying to help underprivileged Others.

I believe in European liberal democracy. Refreshed, young, human, peaceful, solidary, and non-ideological. I believe it could blossom in Slovenia, in cooperation with other neighbouring countries, also with Balkan. It is minimal path from populism to the more dangerous politics. Slovenes from Primorska, together with Croats from Istria, led first resistance in Europe against fascism.

I believe in such values. And I will still walk on the brink, if necessary. Because it is easier to defeat the precipice, there on the brink.

Anja Fabiani

Italian populism and the art of propaganda: how to gain consensus without governing

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini explain his point of view on the present crisis in Italy and the growing of populism in the country, in light of recent political events. It’s a bit longer than most entries on this blog but the  the topic deserves special attention, to allow non-Italians  to better understand the events.


All propaganda must be popular, adapting its level to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is directed. The larger the mass is to convince, the smaller the mental effort must be made. Their capacity to elaborate informations is very poor, as well as their memory”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Vulgarization”)

The best way to make sense to what is happening in the Italian political scenario since March 5th onwards, is to use the words of Joseph Gobbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda. Because it’s only propaganda that moves on the debate. Economic crisis, high unemployment rate, inability of governments to communicate the importance of being part of the EU to be competitive and the unexpected explosion in the numbers of migrants landed on Italian coasts, fueled anger and indignations in people, so populist forces only need to feed this desire for rebellion to gain consensus, without making any serious and concrete proposal.

Moreover, among M5S (Five Stars Movement) and Lega voters, besides people tired of institutions, there is also a part less educated and another part  little inclined to go beyond a search on Google. People only need simple solutions to complex problems, and this nothing better for populist forces.

Italian Constitution state that is the President of Republic that have the power to nominate Prime Minister and “on the indication of the latter”, all the Ministers. This was not the first time that President of Republic says ‘no’ to one of the name on the list, so it is usual to present him also some alternative names. But the institutional clash is exactly that 5 Stars Movement and Lega wanted to provoke from the beginning of this crisis.

They found help in a particularly poor electoral law, which only allow a grouping to govern if a single party of a coalition reach 40%. None of the three blocks achieved this result, so President Sergio Mattarella tried first to join M5S (most voted party) and center-right (most voted coalition). But the attempt failed on the request from M5S to dialogate only with Lega, without Forza Italia and ‘condemned’ Berlusconi. Then he tried to join M5S with Democratic Party (second most voted party) but also this attempt failed, because of a ‘suffered no’ from this latter party.

When, in order to avoid a new ‘techincal Monti-style government’ Berlusconi accepted to ‘step aside’, it officially started the populist alliance’s attempt to delegitimate the institutions we are watching to, which is functional to the only real project: to grow consensus and return to the vote as soon as possible, without getting their hands dirty with the responsibility of government, with the risk of losing voters.

Propaganda must limit itself to a small number of ideas and repeat them tirelessly, always present them under different perspectives, but always converging on the same concept. Without doubts or uncertainties. From here comes the phrase: “A lie repeated endlessly becomes the truth”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Orchestration”)

Never stop propaganda. This is only important thing for the Italian populist parties. And do it in their own way: small number of ideas, few simple concepts that indignant people have to assimilate and built the consensus around them.

So, there is the so-called ‘Government contract’: a mix of economical proposals without coverage, a parallel currency, a ‘far west –style’ justice and racial discriminations. And there is the battle, sought and wanted on the appointed Minister of Economy Paolo Savona, a highly regarded professor well known in Europe for his ‘Euro-Exit’ ideas. President Mattarella accepted a ‘non elected’ mostly unknown prime minister (jurist and professor Giuseppe Conte), and all the list of ministers they propose. Except for Savona. And that’s exactly they want to reach. For M5S and Lega was important to present this name without an alternative one to say: “Without Paolo Savona, we will not make government start” and go to the clash.

It was above all Lega Leader Matteo Salvini who wants the clash, even if he spoke of ‘dignity’: everything was functional to build a narrative that had only one great ‘all season’ enemy, to be used as a ‘non government alibi’ and if needed as lightning rod in case the ‘impossible government’ had started and failed in their ‘proposals’.

“It is necessary to adopt only one idea, one symbol. And above all, to identify the adversary in an enemy, in the sole responsible of all evils “

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “The Unique Enemy”)

M5S and Lega leaders, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, are well aware that it is impossible to get into the Government quickly through the change of the electoral law.

How to get out of the stall and gain consensus, then? Maximizing the tone of the fight, lowering even more the level of arguments and pointing to the belly of the voters (in example: video-harangues on facebook and tweets through which they call for a mass mobilitation), in a sort of massacre game and reduce as much as possible the number of real ‘competitors’. Then return to the vote as soon as possible. And if there is still not enough consensus, start again.

First step reached: Italy, probably will vote again in July, only 4 months after last elections:  none of the parties – not even the Democratic Party and +Europa  (albeit for different reasons) – will support the technical government that President Mattarella has now entrusted to a famous economist, Carlo Cottarelli, former International Monetary Fund official. He will therefore only remain in office at interim with limited tasks until next elections.

Uploading errors and faults to the opponent, responding to the attack with the attack. If you cannot deny bad news, invent new ones to distract “

(Joseph Goebbels, The 11 Principles of Propaganda, Transposition).

The only real winner of this game, unfortunately, is Matteo Salvini. The former MEP Parliament used the initial real M5S willing to govern (and their claimed inexperience, and multiform shape) to make them accept a right oriented ‘Government contract’ that distorted some of their principles and disturbed the ‘left oriented’ base Movement. More, Salvini is eroding Forza Italia spaces, and when Italy will return to vote, probably he will succeed in the objective of seeing Lega  consensus grow a lot.

And if M5S were to lose also some votes because of that ‘compromise’, then could be also possible that Lega becomes first Italian party.

This is why it is absolutely necessary that the liberal, pro-European and democratic forces – setting aside the differences – already join forces to build a real alternative to a drift that risks turning Italy into Venezuela rather than Hungary. Only in this way, with a dialogue around shared projects, can we really change Europe and lay the foundations for a re-start that gives Italy the leading role in the Union.

 

 

 

INTERVIEW ON IDENTITY POLITICS AND THE RISE OF THE PARTY ISLAM

In the debate surrounding immigration, integration, religious fanaticism and radicalism, all too often the debate is about the migrants, but not involving migrants. Today, Dr Sid Lukkassen discusses these topics with Manel Mselmi: a young woman of Tunisian origin who is active for Mouvement Réformateur in Belgium. She is currently a PhD candidate in environmental humanities, a talk show host and a blogger. Sid published several books on topics such as geopolitics, humanism, media analysis and the culture wars and, from 2010 – 2018, he was active as a city councillor (VVD)

Manel: I am happy to begin this discussion. An Islamic political party was recently created in Belgium. Hasn’t something similar happened in the Netherlands?

Sid: A few years ago, two MPs split off from the Labour Party (PvdA) and established DENK. The MPs were from a a Turkish background and the party is focused on migrant issues. I would not hesitate to call this identity politics. This party is on the rise, particularly in major cities.

Manel: I noticed that identity politics is also a theme in my municipality. Some years ago, a large share of cultural subsidies were used for a film festival that accentuated a particular migrant community, but the general cultural curriculum was ignored.

Sid: Did you speak out about it, at the time?

Manel: It bothered me because it was so one-sided: things like Western literature were ignored as a result. I could not escape the impression that Labour were doing this to win migrant votes. People from my community said that the left was doing to help migrants and that I, being of migrant descent, shouldn’t criticise. However, I pointed out that this approach only pushes migrants into a group identity; liberals should do the opposite and emphasize the opportunities and rights of individuals.

Sid: What you noticed back then, was the cocoon of identity politics being spun. The Party Islam is the butterfly that hatched from that cocoon.

Manel: At least now the left is forced to see what they have created, directly or indirectly. What bothers me is that we have no parties with real values at the core of their programs. In any case those values are so watered down that the main parties appear to be the same. By contrast, the Party Islam exudes a strong sense of identity that will appeal to many who feel spiritually and politically uprooted.

Sid: I guess we can say that the left never demanded integration as part of its message to the migrant voter. Instead, they wanted to tap into this electorate through migrant identitarian statements. For example, party programs written in foreign languages or by advocating policies with some Islamic accents here and there. But now, politically active Muslims realize that the left doesn’t offer a strong base for the future. The left – especially the cultural left – hasn’t done much to support traditional families. However, family is a core value of Islam. The left tries to tweak society, but Islam, especially when it becomes political, presents its own model of society.

Manel: That adds up with what I said before, that all the parties begin to look more alike, with the Party Islam then being a strong and demographically viable alternative. If this continues, we move to a state of society where the demographic question takes over the political sphere. Then, labels like ‘liberal’ or ‘social democratic’ will mean less and less in practice.

Sid: Do you consider yourself mostly as a politician, public intellectual or academic?

Manel: I may be a woman from a ‘minority’ background, but I feel mostly driven to defend the Western liberties. I never allowed any identitarian issue to hold me back in my career. Personally, I see you as a fellow relevant thinker on today’s debate on identity and Islam. You can be a successful politician, but your problem is that you are brave enough to be direct and straightforward when presenting your ideas. I can relate to how it would mean that one is sometimes criticised by their own community.

Sid: Politics is a snaky business, and moving up in politics has more to do with in-crowd networking than with developing original ideas. Many politicians seem not to care about that. They are formed by decades of peace and prosperity, and cannot see the real danger of a society becoming dysfunctional.

Manel: Sometimes I am disappointed because democracy can be very vulnerable. I do believe strongly in Western values but it is complicated – we are in an ideological war. It’s strong but also risky that you address these concerns in a direct manner.

Sid: I am confident that my direct style will reach people, even if it takes time. People will hear me better once the system of the current elite begins to crumble. This could be quite fast given that they [the elite] ignore constructive criticism, as you’ve noticed.

Manel: We have to raise awareness among young people about the need to be engaged in politics and fight against extremist parties. Secularism and individual liberties need to be preserved.

Sid: In that sense, you and I have something in common with the Party Islam. Meaning that we try to build awareness and political influence not from the top – as the top tends not to listen – but from the bottom.

Manel: We need truly driven people for this political challenge: convinced and determined ones to build networks.

Sid: It is the only way. From my activities in the media, academic world and by being an elected representative for eight years, my impression is that if you go knock at the gates of the elites to give report from society and to tell them the story from the streets, then you will be portrayed as a ‘racist’.

Manel: This is definitely true. But they forget that values, once you lose them, are hard to grow back as a basis for society. In any case our media activities are a good step to create awareness. Following from this, migrants stop to trust the left parties and they begin to see how they have been used.

Sid: DENK attacks and shames the migrants who are active for other political parties. By doing this, they seek to unify the migrant community as one solid political block. They try to distance those other politically active migrants from that group. But if their aim succeeds, then there is always the chance that all the other blocks will team up against them, since the migrant vote at that point won’t benefit any other party.

Manel: Things will get more polarized from now. Whatever happens – I am glad to share these thoughts with you and to develop our ideas. I feel that I am not alone in this struggle, and hope that our discussion will inspire other young intellectuals.

To conclude, a critique of the identitarian left is often perceived as being disrespectful towards minorities and as violating their rights. The left fears that such criticism leads to ‘second rate citizens’, but they cannot argue with demography; nor can they play their victimhood status trump card when the critical voices come from the minorities themselves, who have experienced what political Islam means in their countries of origin. The left thus generally avoids this debate, as engaging in it could jeopardize their morally superior status.