EU Elections: get to know some +Europa italian candidates: Silvja Manzi and Lia Orferi

The ALDE Party IM coordinator for North-West Italy Francesco Condò  submitted some questions to the candidates of +Europa, the Italian liberal party, at the next European elections in the North-West Italy constituency. You can read the full interviews (in Italian) on the Facebook page of the North-West Italy ALDE Party IMs:

Today we publish the answers of Silvja Manzi and Lia Orfei

Why did you choose to run for the European Parliament?
SILVJA MANZI This is a key event. Perhaps never like this time the European elections represent a crucial challenge, between those who want a greater European integration and those who would like to go back in time. I not only want more Europe, but I also want the United States of Europe, because that is the goal: the way to go for a future of peace, greater wellbeing, openness, hope. And that’s why I’m running with +Europa.

LIA ORFEI  After graduating in Statistics in Rome, I felt the need to engage and gain experience abroad in other academic research realities. Thanks to European agreements, I had the opportunity to study and work in various countries: Eurostat in Luxembourg, the University of Lancaster, the University of Cambridge and the Joint Research Center in Ispra. For me and many people of my generation, Europe represented an opportunity and I would like it to continue being an opportunity for others and future generations of young people. We must absolutely contrast the feeling of closure and protectionism that is taking place in different sections of the population and which risks endangering the European project. I am working to transfer this conviction to young people but also to other age groups, because Europe can give so much to everyone.

In your opinion, how can we make the European Union closer to its citizens and more effective in responding to their needs?

SILVJA MANZI: We should start from an electoral system that really brings the voters closer to the elected and from the direct election of the President of the Commission. It would also be essential, even as an antidote to rampant misinformation, to promote European public media, radio and television, to have a common and accessible source of information for all the European citizens.

GIULIA PASTORELLA I believe that the greatest effort to bring citizens closer to the EU is to accelerate towards political and social union; these, together with the single market and the free movement of people, will help to make citizens feel more and more European, because they are included in a community of people where they can have opportunities and, above all, safeguards. In this last field, a form of European unemployment benefit must be introduced as an instrument of economic stabilization.

Which are the three priority areas in which the European Union should do more with the powers that its institutions have at present?

SILVJA MANZI: Enforcing the internal rule of law: the authoritarian tendencies within the EU are not admissible and tolerable, since they undermine the sense and foundation of the European institution;  policies on migrants and asylum; social policies.

LIA ORFEI: Starting from the current situation of powers, the EU could act towards the taxation of commercial transactions of international digital companies in the European continent, towards the harmonization of direct and indirect tax regimes, and towards new objectives of regional funds and social cohesion towards the areas of southern Europe and urban suburbs.

Last,  Innovation: a European public fund to support new and good business ideas by investing an amount equal to those granted to companies by venture capital and private equity funds and a better coordination and support of national Industry 4.0 plans.

If you will be elected to the European Parliament, which will be your priorities and what policies / sectors would you like to focus your work on?

SILVJA MANZI: On the one hand I would work on internal reforms, on the areas I mentioned. On the other hand, I would work on the promotion of human rights: on this topic the Parliament can do a lot and we worked a lot in the years when I was in the EP with the Radical MEPs.

LIA ORFEI: I want to defend the values ​​I believe in: honesty, competence and solidarity. I will carry forward proposals on the topics that I believe most contribute to achieving these values. In particular: innovation, environment and social protection.

Full interview to Lia Orfei is available in italian here.

Full interview to Silvja Manzi is available in italian here.

Francesco Condò

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EU Elections: get to know some of +Europa italian candidates: Igor Boni and Giulia Pastorella

The ALDE Party IM coordinator for North-West Italy Francesco Condò  submitted some questions to the candidates of +Europa, the Italian liberal party, at the next European elections in the North-West Italy constituency. You can read the full interviews (in Italian) on the Facebook page of the North-West Italy ALDE Party IMs:

Today we publish the answers of Igor Boni and Giulia Pastorella.

Why did you choose to run for the European Parliament?
IGOR BONI  I have been active in politics down on the streets for over 30 years with the Radicals, fighting for civil and human rights, for the transparency of the institutions and for the United States of Europe. Running for the European Parliament for +Europa is the way to provide my contribution to the concrete building of an alternative to sovereigntists.

GIULIA PASTORELLA I want to give my contribution to strengthen and improve the European Union, which in my opinion is the only political project able to face the challenges of our times. As a young and committed pro-European woman, I hope that many voters will understand these elections are a crossroad: either the EU will continue to be a model of a just and sustainable society, or it will shift backwards and shrink into irrelevance.

In your opinion, how can we make the European Union closer to its citizens and more effective in responding to their needs?

IGOR BONI There is little perception of the benefits of being European citizens even though even ifin every dayeveryday life Europe helps us: we take the train in a station built with European funds, we eat vegetables produced thanks to the common agricultural policy, we attend training courses funded by Europe, we live in a better environment thanks to European directives. To increase the sense of belonging, I believe that it would be appropriate to introduce the direct election of the President of the European Commission.

GIULIA PASTORELLA +Europa has very specific ideas to really show how Europe can be rooted in its territories: a single European web portal to activate and carry out consultations, petitions and initiatives of European citizens; integrated cooperation and planning of local institutions for rural and urban areas coordinated at European level to relaunch sustainable development; financing instruments for the development and cohesion of non-urban and de-industrialised areas through infrastructures, innovative agriculture and building recovery; a plan of lifelong learning so that no one feels left behind. Another way to make Europe closer is through greater integration of public services, starting with ensuring true healthcare mobility within the Union, with minimum standards of care and better distribution of specialized excellence centers on EU territory.Which are the three priority areas in which the European institutions should do more with the powers that they have at present?

Which are the three priority areas in which the European Union should do more with the powers that its institutions have at present?

IGOR BONI I would say that the problem is to be found in the powers that Europe does not have today. This is the major damage I see. Common immigration policies would make it possible to manage the phenomenon without leaving it to the gut of the voters of the Mediterranean countries. A common foreign policy could give answers to the most serious present dossiers: Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela…

GIULIA PASTORELLA: First,  Immigration: approving the Dublin IV Regulation that is currently blocked in the Council of the EU. It would be a step forward in the management of migrants and asylum seekers flows, with a fair relocation mechanism based on GDP and population and criteria for family reunification.

Then,  Rights: as of today a full and equal European citizenship on individual rights issues has not been reached. The rights of a European citizen are currently not transferable to all the member states in the same way, e.g. marriages and adoptions for same-sex couples.

Last,  Innovation: a European public fund to support new and good business ideas by investing an amount equal to those granted to companies by venture capital and private equity funds and a better coordination and support of national Industry 4.0 plans.

If you will be elected to the European Parliament, which will be your priorities and what policies / sectors would you like to focus your work on?

IGOR BONI First of all, I would work on the European institutional reforms to open a process of federation, of direct election of the President, of concrete participation of citizens in the public decisions, of enhancement of the Parliament. Furthermore, I would also deal with the environment, that is the sector I have been working on and studying for over 30 years.

GIULIA PASTORELLA: My program is focused on three axes: a review of the EU structure in the areas of minor competence at present (defense, immigration, taxation). The EU must grow to promote a model of a just, innovative and sustainable society. Then, innovation. To keep pace with international players, the EU must have an industrial and economic policy focused on innovation and new technologies, ensuring that it is developed in an ethical and fair manner. Third, women and young people. As a young woman I know that more could be done to ensure full integration of women in the European economic and social life, especially in the technical-scientific field, and to make sure that being young is not penalizing in a society that looks more to its elders. So if I’ll be assigned to the ITRE, IMCO, LIBE or FEMM committees, I will pursue the themes of innovation for growth and new rights for more opportunities for young people.

The full interview to Igor Boni  is available in italian here.

The full interview to Giulia Pastorella is available (in italian) here 

 

Francesco Condò

European elections – now is the time to act!

Thalia Ntoka, Chair of the Steering Committee of ALDE Individual Members wrote this piece for Liberal Bullettin. We republish it on our blog

23-26 May 2019: save these dates in your calendar and go vote in the European elections.

Before sharing information on ‘how’ and ‘who’, let’s remind ourselves that 2019 can become our year. If not from the perspective of dynamics, then definitely from the basis that the result of these European elections will probably change the way we live.

It is true that people are not interested in the European elections. They seem boring – more than 700 new (and some old) faces will relocate for five years, will get high salaries, will disappear from their countries for a long time, will vote for some legislation we do not understand and five years later, many of them will come back, probably asking for your vote. So, what is the point?

We belong in Europe. For many, Europe is just an idea or a place with boundaries that occasionally change whilst our rights and obligations strictly remain inside the country we live in. This is the biggest myth populists use to convince someone that Europe is just a geographic area with no other function or point.

But let’s first have a look at some facts and then decide whether European elections mean anything at all.

 We have the freedom to travel, live and work everywhere – select one of the EU Member States, and there you are! You think it’s the national parliaments which achieved that? Wrong!

Thanks to Europe, around 500 million people can cross the borders easily and travel without fear. Our common market works no matter what populists say and recently, data became accessible free of roaming charges, so thank you Europe

Do you think that the Single Market is not a European achievement? Well, think again! We now cherish the biggest Single Market in the world when it comes to goods and services. You like a camera and want to purchase it but can’t find it in your country? Go ahead and buy it from Germany, there is no import tax. Big companies work better, millions of employees relocate all the time with no issue, so thank Europe again!

 Many of us don’t really know what wars or border controls are, and if we take a look at the history, we should be thankful for that. It is Europe that managed to create one of the most democratic and peaceful regions in the world and that gave us the ability to not just feel but actually live in freedom.

Are you aware of the Paris Agreement? No matter what climate change deniers say, climate change is here and thanks to the policies of the European Union, we can reduce CO2 emissions to protect our planet and the generations to come. Only recently, an EU strategy on reducing plastic use by 2030 was adopted.

There are many other achievements, of course, but also many challenges.

Brexit, migration, youth unemployment and data privacy issues have recently harmed the trust many have in the European project, but think of how much worse off things could be if there was no common voice or strategy.

As ALDE Individual Members, we are not just seeking for answers but solutions, which will keep Europe and our future safe.

We know how difficult it is to build communities and share our values, but we also know this is not time lost, and we must make up ground the best we can. The time for this has come!

With less than a month to go before the European elections, it is time to become more active than ever. Thankfully, all of us can take action. You can start small by telling your friends to join and support liberal ideas. You can organise events and share the message on why these elections are so important. You can use social media for the right cause, by spreading the message all over Europe. You can get involved in the ALDE Party’s electoral campaign. You can write articles or become vloggers.

Whatever you do, do not stay silent. Do not leave the ground to those who hate Europe, as they are many and they live where we live. We can do better and must show that liberalism is not just an idea but a way of life.

I won’t tell you who to support, you know better, so go and make the right choice for the future of Europe.

On 26 May I will personally celebrate, not only for my birthday, but I will dedicate this special day to you, to us, to Europe!

Thalia Ntoka

Outside influence on the Euro-sceptic Populists

In this contribution, Yves de Rosee describes the climbing of Bannon’s populist vision of society in Europe and how liberalism is the antidote 

The Populists

As for any word in “…ism”, there is no single definition or interpretation for “Populism”. The word obviously comes from “people”. It is not a political philosophy, as populists can come from the left or the right of the political spectrum. What unites the populists is that they seek to appeal by playing on the fears of people, their anxiety or anger, and propose simplistic solutions to complex problems. Today’s populism is best described as a political approach that poses ‘the people’ as a group against their ‘elites’ or ‘establishment’ in the areas of culture, justice, business, economics, politics and media. The elites are viewed and portrayed as placing their own interests above the interests of the people, thus becoming enemies of the people. The elites are supposed to be active behind the scene, as a ‘deep state’ entrenched in a ‘swamp’ that need to be ‘drained’ so that the ‘will of the people’ can be implemented. This has become the common vocabulary of populists.

A society that feels threatened or insecure in its identity, culture, economic development is quick to conclude that their elected representatives do not serve its people, and need to be removed or replaced by others, who will establish a new order, outside the prevailing norms. Existing or would-be politicians with a good ear for this anger of the people are as quick to respond with easy solutions. The archetype of these opportunists in recent times is Donald Trump. But Trump could not have reached the Presidency of the United States without an intellectual mentor able to articulate the grief of the people, and the easy road to reach the new order. The name of this mentor is Steve Bannon, a well-known figure in all populist parties across the globe, and who has set his sight on the EU, and its next Parliament.

It is thus worth looking deeper at the Trump-Bannon duo.

Trump and Steve Bannon

Trump is not a thinker – by his own admission, he is not even a reader, just a “dealer”. He has never been faithful in his party affiliations. As he said: “You’d be shocked if I said that in many cases I probably identify more as a Democrat” … “Look, I’m a Republican. I’m a very conservative guy in many respects—I guess in most respects” …  “I’ve actually been an activist Democrat and Republican.”

Trump invented or at least popularized the now famous expression ‘fake news’ that he accuses everyone in sight of using against him. However, it is Trump himself who is the King of Fake News: according to the Washington Post Fact Checker database, barely two years after becoming President, Trump has made 8,158 false or misleading claims! He averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office. But he hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year, almost triple the pace!

Trump, who started his electoral campaign with less than 5% of the possible votes became a successful populist candidate under the guidance of Steve Bannon. His messages, methods and tactics are being copied in Europe.

Steve Bannon was born in 1953 to a Catholic, pro-Democrat family. He has 3 university degrees, of which one is an MBA from Harvard. He was a US Naval Officer; an investment banker at Goldman Sachs; a researcher in the Biosphere 2 project; the founder of the Government Accountability Institute; the producer and director of 18 films and documentaries; the CEO of Breitbart News, an online right-wing media website. Most noteworthy, Breitbart was financed by the US billionaire Robert Mercer, a computer scientist and early developer in artificial intelligence and co-CEO of  the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, as well as majority shareholder of Cambridge Analytica, the big data consulting firm, which illegally supported Nigel Farage and the Brexit side of the UK referendum on EU membership. Bannon was thus very well connected with money, power and the old and new media.

Bannon met Trump early in the Republican primaries in 2015 at the Breitbart talk show he was hosting. He joined the campaign of Trump after leaving that of the better-known candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz because he thought Trump was more radically different from all other Republican candidates to implement his vision for changing society. Trump quickly made him the CEO of his campaign, which ended in a surprise victory.

Bannon’s vision of society

Bannon’s vision of American and Western society is anchored in the generational theory of two American historians (William Strauss and Neil Howe), known also as the Fourth Turning. According to the theory (dismissed by many scholars), world events unfold in predictable cycles of roughly 80 years each that can be divided into four chapters, or turnings: growth, maturation, entropy (degeneration) and destruction.  As the theory goes, western societies have experienced the same patterns for centuries, as naturally and necessarily as the four seasons.

Bannon believes that western societies are currently in the degeneration phase, in a period of momentous crisis, when the identity of the nation is at stake, and that radical change must take place, that includes, in his own words, the “destruction of the administrative state”.

According to Bannon, western societies faces three major threats for their survival: (i) Judeo-Christianity is threatened by Islam; (ii) national identity is threatened by immigration; (iii) capitalism is threatened as undermined by government regulations and social policies. Those threats and their radical remedies are all encapsulated in the Inaugural Address of Trump at his inauguration as President on 20 January 2017. The address itself – spelling out Bannon’s vision – is radical in its tone and historical perspective, as the future is presented as having no continuity with the past; instead there is clean break between two eras, the before- and after-Trump eras. Here are a few relevant excerpts: “January 20 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again… This American carnage stops right here and stops right now… From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

Bannon as icon for European populists – His rise and fall

Bannon’s career reached its peak when Trump made him his Chief Strategist and elevated him to the National Security Council. He became all-powerful and legendary when he was photographed in his office in the White House with a white board on which his political agenda was translated into a bullet point for each policy goal. He also became an inspirational leader for right-wingers across the world when he was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in February 2017, with the sole title ‘the Great Manipulator’.

That particular TIME issue was also the undoing of Bannon in Trump’s orbit, as the President could not tolerate in his inner circle someone who enjoyed being compared to Trump, or even viewed as the “real” president.

After being fired by Trump in August 2017, Bannon continued his crusade for a new order at the international level, especially in Europe, intent on disrupting the EU from within – starting with Brexit and throwing his support behind Nigel Farage and other Leavers. Returning to Breitbart, he reinforced its office in London, but failed to open offices in Paris and Germany.

The “Movement” in Brussels

Bannon had this idea of creating a super-group of “like-minded” Eurosceptics or right-wing parties that he would actively support with central source of polling, messaging advice, data targeting and think tank research. It has not yet materialised as there is an inherent contradiction in the promotion of nationalism through an international alliance. Nationalist parties are not “like-minded” at all in critical areas, such as the role of the state in general, social policy, economic policy, data protection, etc. Bannon is not withdrawing from this dream, but scaling it back. Along with Mischael Modrikamen (Head of the People Party in Belgium) and Matteo Salvini (Head of La Ligua in Italy), he created ‘The Movement’ – a populist bloc aiming to win at the next election for the European Parliament as many seats as possible in order to shift the balance of power towards the implementation of the bloc’s new, but limited, European dream of sealing Europe’s frontiers.

If over 20 right wing parties have indicated an interest in joining The Movement, only three have done so, demonstrating the waning influence of Bannon as an international populist leader. However, his original message of a post-global liberal order based on intolerance and closed societies is being sustained by the deep well of discontent across many European countries, as demonstrated by the gilets jaunes in France, which Bannon compares to the Tea Party movement in the US around 2008.

Liberalism as the antidote

Liberalism was defined by The Economist in its issue of 15 September 2018 as “a universal commitment to individual dignity, open markets, limited government and faith in human progress brought about by debate and reform”.

That should be the best antidote to the current populism. It is not a given. We should all work for it.

Italy and the anesthetization of consciences: if humanity becomes a crime

In this contribution, our blog coordinator explains the Italian situation, where it’s only propaganda that leads the political action. Former MEP now minister Salvini bans humanity and those who practice it

The building of consensus: by doing nothing and using weapons of mass distraction so that the people do not notice. Matteo Salvini and his way of doing politics is the most evident symbol of the decadence to which the political debate in Italy has deteriorated and how easy it is to create a leader in a country where voters are highly disappointed by the past. Berlusconi indicated the way but his problems with justice stopped him. Renzi succeeded only partially. Former MEP now Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Premier is – unfortunately-  the one who had better ride the wave.

Salvini did that so good as to have overshadowed the Five Stars Movement, government ally and first Italian party and made the Italians forget the fact that Lega not only did not win elections but it came third also beaten by the Democratic Party.

The media, but above all social media, are the best way to get people engaged. Salvini and his team know it well and so “live” on Facebook, quickly making it his chosen weapon of mass persuasion:  through them he has been able to convince an ever-larger part of voters and made mainstream his point of view on certain topics.

Italian Populists (1)Moreover, the average voter – the Italian, in particular – has a short memory.  Submerging them with words and images makes them happy; it takes little to make them forget, for example, that the same politician that went around with  “Padania is not Italy” t-shirts, conducting stadium choirs against the inhabitants of Naples, is now the one who screams  #primagliitaliani (“italiansfirst”).

The strategy is simple and can be summarized in a few simple concepts: never stop propaganda, create an enemy, direct the mass to a single thought, and delegitimize the contrary voices. Thanks to these tactics and, at the same time, to a meticulous construction of an image (fake) of  a ‘man close to the people’ (for example posting images of his own dinner on Twitter), Salvini has managed, like a good snake charmer, to take credit into a part of people.

There is nothing that cannot be useful to this purpose. Is Italy a Catholic country? So, he presents himself to the political meetings holding the Gospel and the Rosary and makes battles for the crucifix and the nativity scene in schools. Italy was an obstacle to Padania? Now the southerners are needed and so those to be fought are ‘others’: migrants –  ‘loafers and bearers of terrorism’ – and the NGOs that help them, Doctors without Borders (he calls them ‘deputy smugglers’), and even the Pope, who redirects the Catholic electorate towards the true Christian message.

The rest is done by a careful communication strategy aimed (also) at the construction and viralisation of ‘fake news’ through the echo chambers of Facebook and Twitter, and the constant evocation of phrases, attitudes and characters that refer to policies close to fascism or the extreme right; it’s good to put his ‘flag’ on those slices of nostalgic electorate that otherwise would hardly see their own representations in Parliament – if it gets you elected.

In this strategy it is, of course, essential to provide an altered perception of reality. The uncertain European management of migratory flows was, in this sense, an easy tool to by which to construct the narrative of a danger that does not actually exist. His  role as Interior Minister is helping him to reinforce this perception on the people.

This is happening through two measures launched by the Government of which he is a part. First of all, a decree called ‘security’ but one that actually realizes exactly the opposite: canceling all the projects for integration and removing the asylum seekers from the structures where they are housed.  Those people, by their very status, cannot be expelled, and so they are left without a place to stay, increasing the risk they become ‘irregulars’. The second provision: almost completely abolishing humanitarian protection, makes it impossible to renew their residence permit once it has expired. Two simple moves to create new irregularities, but they are presented to the population as a ‘fight against crime’. In the eyes of the people there will always be an ’emergency’. That soon will be ‘faced’ by shooting at sight, even against those who are unarmed, thanks to the law on self-defence that the Government is preparing to launch.

xenophobia_-_we_are_all_foreignersThere is no better way to increase consensus and bring out all the anger and indignation of the people than have the poor fighting amongst themselves. Even instrumentalizing the victims of the recent earthquake is fair game: “Before migrants, I have to deal with those who have been without a house for two years”, he hurries to say on Facebook and on TV. But the laws to remove the bureaucracy that block the reconstruction of the houses destroyed in those areas have remained an electoral promise. On the other hand, he will soon go to visit one of earthquake regions where, in February, there will be an election. “Buonista” (“Feel-good” in English) is  a term he use in a negative way, against those who think we need to continue to maintain humanity by considering migrants as people.

The anesthetization effect of the collective conscience is completed by the discrediting of all contrary voices: on the one hand, exploiting the traditional Italian habit of ‘bending’ public information to politics, with directors ‘aligned’ to the ideas of those who govern and, from another side, by removing space and resources from all those media that deal daily with the right to distort the distorted narration, evaluating theses with real data and fact checking.

An even better way to do this is to change the law  that every year allocate money to newspapers, radio and television: in Italy pure publisher figures  don’t exist and media  are mostly owned by entrepreneurs in sectors others than publishing, so the Government helps the media. Salvini’s party (Lega) have joined with his ally M5S to fight against these allocations  and have just launched the law that will reduce in three years the allocation to zero; A provision that in addition to small regional newspapers, almost exclusively affects the media ‘dissidents’.

In the meantime, the measures included in the last financial law, in addition to taxing voluntary associations (especially penalizing those who assist the migrants) takes away money from growth, development and businesses, to finance some ‘spots’ measures as lowering retirement age, flat tax and so called ‘citizen income’, a sum of money for unemployed and those who earn less than 750 euros.

Revolution and Democracy in Armenia

In this contribution, Edgar Brutyan, ALDE Internship, talks about political elections in Armenia and the new chapter of Armenian’s people story

2018 year is an important year for Armenians after the pacific “velvet” revolution, which brought democracy and faith into their political institutions.

On December 9th 2018, Armenia experienced its first experience of fully democratic parliamentary election. This election was more than just a simple ballot but a whole new hope for the population to get rid of the existing corrupt system and to face a free and democratic future. It was predicted that the leader of the Velvet revolution Nokol Pashinyan and his party would win the election, and indeed the party obtained 70.4% of the votes. The second party in the parliament with 8.3% was Prosperous Armenia, the party of Gagik Tsarukyan, a well-established oligarch. The third party in the parliament is Bright Armenia, a liberal and pro-European party led by Edmon Marukyan. The Republican party is the big loser of the election with just 4.7% of the votes, not only leaving the majority but being ousted completely.

Aleksander Pociej, Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said at a meeting with reporters, that PACE has observed every election in Armenia since 1995. He said: “Despite the complex electoral system and reported instances of intimidation via social media, the recurring electoral irregularities which tainted many elections in the past were absent. It is up to Armenia’s elected representatives to launch legal reforms to consolidate the democratic process in the country.” Peter Osusky, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission said: “Democracy cannot proceed without trust, so I am pleased that broad public trust was the central characteristic of this election.”

Since the end of the Soviet Union, the smallest country of the Caucasus suffered from 27 years of post-transitional corrupted policies. The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), who was using the power of corruption to achieve its goals, ruled the country. Corruption was everywhere: in the national institutions, in the health and the judicial systems etc. The RPA used corruption to be manipulate the outcome of the elections; busses were used to transport people and to force them to vote for the RPA or even in exchange of money. By 2017, 25.7% of the population lived below the poverty line due to oligarchs monopolizing the country’s economy.

The two parties that want to bring more openness, transparency and democracy in the country now compose the majority in Armenian parliament. They both want to bring freedom, enhance rule of law and promote civil rights. However, they will face many challenges, as everything needs to be rebuilt. Moving away from the former regime of the Republicans will not be an easy task. Another difficulty to face is Russia – how will they react to these pro-European, anti-oligarch parties ruling what they consider their vassal state? There is an important factor as well: Pahinyan. He has the support of a huge part of the population, we saw him uniting 300.000 people in 1 hour in the streets of Yerevan, and he is popular because of the great and democratic changes that he is bringing in the country. We need to hope he will not turn populist.

Armenia is starting a new chapter; and only time will tell if this leads to a happy ending, yet hopes are quite high.

Edgar Brutyan

Steering Committee replacement elections: get to know candidates/4

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Olivia Psachin

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

ALDE_IM /France South region Coordinator, specialized in European Law and Politics and International Politics, I lived 15 years immersed in the Swiss federalist political system, its direct democracy, its subsidiarity, its system of concord.

For me, ALDE- Individual Members is very close philosophically speaking of the Swiss political system of direct democracy.

The Steering Committee is a team of five people from different countries, each carrying the cultural richness of their country with common values, whose efficiency will have to be optimized for the European Elections campaign

I would like to bring my “faith” in team spirit from my years in Switzerland where the group takes precedence over individualism because of the spirit of mountain solidarity.

2° Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

In this campaign of the European elections which promises to be difficult for our political family, I wish to help to set up a coordination between the Steering Committee, the Regional and National ALDE-IM Coordinations, the direct Individual Members (with no national or regional Coordination), the candidates who will sit in the ALDE group of the European Parliament and, the ALDE Secretariat, to be able to fight together for our values. Individual members should be able to get involved in the election campaign, coordinated by the SC in the agreement with ALDE.

My ability to think and work in two different political systems almost the opposite of each other, one centralist, the other federal- direct democracy, should be able to help translate, to overcome difficulties of understanding , in order to coordinate our efforts for the promote of our values during the futur campaign.

The old European demons of nationalism (to be distinguished from the legitimate pride of being a citizen of a country) is on the lookout. The arguments put forward by the populists please many Europeans.

Socrates said: “Evil comes from the fact that man is mistaken about good”. Two world wars proved the consequences of this mistake, and the war of former Yugoslavia was yesterday.

I conclude with two quotations which, I think, sum up the spirit of ALDE-IM and ALDE by affirming with Aristotle : “politics is the art of commanding free men”, and, with Epictetus “Freedom is the independence of thought”.

Everyone on board for the European Elections campaign!

Steering Committee replacement elections: get to know the candidates/3

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Laura Hidalgo

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

I have been a member of the ALDE Party IMS since 2013 and in one year actively through my position as a Delegate IMS to the ALDE Party Council and Delegate IMS at the last ALDE Congress in Madrid. I’m very grateful that you voted for me to represent us.

When I was 18, I wanted to commit myself to defend the European project through a liberal vision. I found the best place to debate and understand the issues at the European level within the IMS ALDE Party. Being the President of the Federation of Liberal Students in Wallonia and Brussels, I had much information from IMS all around Europe.

If you vote for me, my objective will be to ensure that all of the IMS coordinators receive the assistance needed, creating more joint events between countries and working closely with the Steering Committee and IMS to find new ways to still attract our IMS and new members with us. Obviously, I will fight like a liberal to be sure that our voice is listening by the ALDE Party with our Steering Committee.

Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

We face a migration crisis, Brexit and populism is growing but as Guy Verhofstadt said “crises are challenges, not calamities”. Despite this, we are going to go through this, stand up and fight like liberals for the legacy of our founding fathers and the future of the European citizens.

I hope that we will convince everyone that the European Union project and ALDE Party are ready to take up other challenges like renewable energy, robotization and digitalization. I really want a more liberal and unite European Union ! It’s time to give us the opportunity to shape a better Europe.

Steering Committee replacement elections: get to know candidates/2

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Daniel Jansen, Maurice Lagerwerf and Susanne Wunderer

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

Daniel Jansen: Hi, I want to work as SC member and contribute to us all. I don’t want to make it glamorous: supporting ALDE and ALDE Individual Members can be hard work but it is very worthwhile! It is a way of helping the prosperous and peaceful society. In the coming year there have to be campaigns organised and run, together with ALDE Party towards the European Elections. Also, we will work together with the members in organizing events and our congress. For me personally, I enjoy very much connecting with great people who have the guts to do the right thing for all generations to come.My management experience in work surroundings and in volunteer organisations is an asset for this role and period. I have worked with various people in semi-independent organisations. Supporting people so they get successful makes me happy. My dream is to develop a prosperous and peaceful Europe for the well-being of all humanity. The European Union – with all its experience and values – should be the example of cooperation, alignment and development in creating a safe and level playing field for citizens.

Maurice Lagerwerf: In daily life, I’m working for a global player in Horticultural Logistics and studying Online Marketing Management.  As of Since this month I am a civil counselor for D66, in my place of residence:  Ridderkerk, Netherlands. I would love to get to know all of you a bit better and give you the opportunity to learn to know me better as well. Please feel free to link with me on social.

Linkedin; facebook; Instagram

Susannne Wunderer. I am athe hands-on type of person, and liberalism has never needed the hands-on mentality more despearately than nowadays. Coming from the electronics industry, where I had the opportunity to gain international and leadership-experience as a CEO, I initiated a grassroots movement during my maternity leave, and came in touch with politics. From thereon I have been working in politics as a staff member;, I have experiencedknow all levels of political work – from municipal to regional, national and international. I worked in parliaments, was part of an parlamentarian investigation commission, and developed and ran election and other campaigns. Today, I am working as a political advisor and strategist (public affairs). Now I want to roll up my sleeves for ALDE Party IM.

Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

Daniel Jansen Of course, I hope that ALDE parties will do well in all countries. My expectation is that more and more people come to their senses and say: ‘Hey, we are in this together. Let’s act in a decent way and if something needs to be improved let’s have a positive attitude towards it. We can do this. I can improve my life and we can improve each other’s lives.’ Our ALDE values matter!

Maurice Lagerwerf:  For the upcoming elections, I think we can make a strategic difference by joining forces and aligning the organizations within the ALDE group as a whole.  I consider this can be the key to reoach our goals, such as protecting the environment, further protecting human rights, and building an even stronger Europe within the near future.

Susanne Wunderer. Next year’‘s election will be crucial for the European Union. As a liberal, I hope to see a significant move away from nationalism, authoritarianism and xenophobia, and send a strengthening signal to cooperation, democracy and open-mindedness. I will put in all my expertise, my energy, and my experience to achieve this goal.

 

Steering Committee replacement election: get to know candidates/1

On Decemebr 5th we’ll have a new ALDE Individual Members Steering Committee election to replace Robert Schliessler. So we gave candidates another chance to present themselves. Here we are Anders Basboll from Denmark

What is your motivation to run for the Steering Committee?

Some political problems cross national boarders. They demand European solutions. We are blessed to have the EU. The Union is at its best, when fully democratic. Maybe democracy needs a people. The ALDE IMs are  helping to create exactly that, bringing like minded people together to work on ideas. I want the ALDE IMs to facilitate these discussions better, and I think we have a golden opportunity with candidates for Parliament who wants votes and later new idealistic Parliamentarians to try to get our members connected to MEP’s. Imagine IM groups discussing specific subjects shadowing Committees of the EP.

Imagine such a group giving input directly to the liberal members – like local party groups talking to their local municipal councillor. This would be exciting for our members and it would be valuable to MEP’s (just remember all those talented, knowledgeable people we have!). Meeting other IM’s at events is a real pleasure (that I have had on a few occations) but that is the icing on the cake. The cake itself, is the online discussions we have on facebook, and what we can have in working groups. Imagine a person telling co-workers in France that she just discussed an issue with one of our MEP’s,who is a Lithuanian – that is our sword against populism – bringing Europe together in a liberal and democratic way.

Next year, Europeans can vote in the European elections. What are your hopes and expectations for those elections?

Obviously I hope for ALDE to do well and there is a chance we can finish second – Europe really needs a strong liberal voice – for open markets, open (internal) boarders and open minds. And of cause for free trade – if somebody doubts the value of liberals, look at the trade deals negotiated under Commissioner Malmström. I hope more people will realise that their national parties are part of European parties and I wish for ALDE parties to use the ALDE brand. I was sad to see ALDE give in to Macron on the Spitzenkandidaten. To me spitzenkandidaten does not mean that the largest party wins, but that whoever can get a majority in EP wins. I hope, when the dust settles and we have a result, that ALDE will recognise the right of the majority to get its Commission President – hopefully being part of such a majority, but even if not, being gracious in defeat and then a fierce but fair opposition.