Category Archives: ALDE

ALDE Party Congress 2017: have we reached our Climax?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thalia Ntoka

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

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

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

Il quadro generale italiano

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

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

La situazione attuale.

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

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

L’intervento di Andrea Mazziotti

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

Contro una nuova Lega delle nazioni

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

Marco Ajello

“+Europa”: the new italian Liberal-Democratic challenge against populism

In this contribution, ALDE Individual Member and relevant blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini speaks about the birth of ‘+ Europa’, a new list promoted by former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova, and the movement of Radicali Italiani. The list intends to constitute a common point of reference for Italian radical liberals, liberal-democrats and reformists alike. +Europa’s ambition is running for the political elections of 2018.

+Europa is an Italian liberal-democratic list which intends to offer an alternative to growing populism and represent the Italians voters who embrace the ambitious project of constructing the United States of Europe. Through +Europa, radical liberals and liberal-democrats are determined to regain the seats in the Italian Parliament that they have been missing for a long time. The promoters of +Europa are the historical leader of Radicali Italiani Emma Bonino, former EU Commissioner and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and founder of the pro- European Union movement ‘Forza Europa’; Andrea Mazziotti, current chairman of the Commission for Constitutional Affairs, formerly member of ‘Scelta Civica’ and now of ‘Civici e Innovatori; and, finally, the movement of Radicali Italiani led by secretary Riccardo Magi. On November 23rd, the presentation of +Europa, a list whose vision is eloquently conveyed by the ‘+E’ symbol with which it will compare on the voting papers, was held in Rome.

Riccardo Magi introduced the vision behind the list by explaining that “today’s distinctions are no longer between right and left, or between conservatives and reformists; but among those who believe that social and economic problems can be solved by closing within national borders and by resorting to neo-nationalism, and those who think that we must build an open society and re-launching the process of European integration.”. He went on to explain how the challenge implied in this vision is “fighting the clichés about Europe shared by most of Italian party leaders, according to which Europe is a ‘bad stepmother’.” Until those leaders will continue exploiting and disseminating these stereotypes, Magi concluded, “+Europa can only be and will remain an independent list. ” “The European Union is the only place where we want to stay”, added Emma Bonino, “since more Europe means more peace, more security, more rights, more growth, more culture, and more freedom.” She then reminded that the European Commission has always had solid arguments to criticize the management of Italian public finances, and that the ‘bonus policy’ promoted by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, as well as the agreement the current government made with Libya on migrants, were all serious mistakes. +Europa shall not be approached as the list of Radicali Italiani only though.  As Carmelo Palma, one of the early proponents of the list, explains, “The list represents all liberal-democratic, secular, pro-European Union and anti-populist Italian voters”. Those same voters were so far represented by a constellation of movements – like ‘Scelta Civica’ and ‘Fare per fermare il declino’ – who can now find, in +Europa, a common political platform.

One main obstacle to the parliamentary representation of +Europa exists though. The Italian electoral law requires, to any political movement not already represented in the Parliament, to collect a minimum number of validated signatures in each and all constituencies. For +Europa, this requirement comes down to collecting 50,000 signatures . That is why a campaign aimed at recruiting voters willing to undersign the list, as well as validating the signatures of others, was promptly launched by Radicali Italiani and by the several liberal associations that gravitate around +Europa. “It’s an uphill ride”, explains Carmelo Palma, “especially considering that due to the approval of the new electoral law in October 2017, all constituencies themselves shall be first formally constituted; only then, which means around mid-December, we could start with the collection of signatures. This means that we will have 45 days in total to collect 50,000 signatures throughout the whole country.” The stringency of this requirement has led Emma Bonino, Benedetto Della Vedova and Riccardo Magi to submit a formal request to Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to lower the quota of signatures necessary for presenting +Europa among all other candidate-lists. Whilst Gentiloni’s position in regard is yet unknown, liberal activists continue to campaign for empowering +Europa to run at the next political elections.

Emanuele Lombardini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luis Filipe Menezes

 

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

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

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

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

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

Guy Verhofstadt, Emma Bonino

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

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

Roberto Saviano

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

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

Benedetto Della Vedova, Enrico Letta

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

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

We can’t say no to Emma, remember.

Claudia Basta

What the Maastricht Conference can teach us!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our mandate must not just be kind words without action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thalia Ntoka

 

THE OCCIDENT AND IDENTITY: TWO YEARS LATER

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

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

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

European self-esteem

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

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

The end of liberty

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

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

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

Ethnical tensions and economic resentment 

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

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

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

Politics degenerates into emotional storytelling

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

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

Dr Sid Lukkassen

 

 

 

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