Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

Opinion: Has the EU just come of age?

It sounds a daft question, given the number of articles critical of the solution to the Greece crisis which have been appearing in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, but things are not always what they seem. Looking at unconscious processes in organisations, the things that people act out without naming tend to be the really important ones

My sense is that we might just have tipped into the space where the EU functions like a truly federal entity — albeit with a deep faith in subsidiarity — and the griping is the griping one has when a government makes a difficult decision, not when it is seen as illigitimate.

What first sent my mind in this direction was the Greek referendum. Far from being an “in/out” referendum, this was one that assumed Greece was inevitably part of the EU, woven in so tightly that this bizarre stunt could not cause them to leave. The “no” vote was strong, but so was the desire to remain in the Eurozone and the EU. For Alexis Tsipras to have made such a fuss about democracy, and then ignore the referendum could seem bizarre, but it makes more sense if I compare it with the antics of a 1970s-style shop steward garnering the support of the workers as a negotiating tactic, or the rebellions of Liverpool City Council at the height of the Militant Tendency. In both cases, quite extreme behaviour is possible because people assume an underlying unity — the shop steward does not want their members to lose their jobs, and Liverpool was not going to cease to be part of the UK. As with Greece in the EU, the strong behaviour is possible because they feel they belong.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Guy Verhofstadt tells it to Greece and the EU like it is

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, has set out a potential solution to the Greek crisis in an article for Politico. He makes it clear that there are faults on both sides and both sides need to take constructive action to resolve the crisis fairly for everyone.

We are in this mess because the Greeks never made a real reform package, or a clear break with their mistakes from the past. But also because Europe has followed wrong policies — policies of pure accountancy that slowly but steadily choked the Greek economy. Everybody can make the wrong policy choices, but we have been clinging on to them far too long.

He implores people to stop the scaremongering:

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

Catherine Bearder MEP speaks… Britain after Brexit

Bearder Oxford UnionCatherine delivered the following speech to the Oxford Union, painting a picture of what life would be like after Brexit.

I want to take you to a land, not so far away. Close your eyes and think of Britain after Brexit.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 14 Comments

Paddy Ashdown: It is no longer the case that the nation state, acting alone, can determine its future

In the comments to an earlier post, Bill Le Breton mentioned a speech by Paddy Ashdown in the Lords yesterday. We had a look and thought it deserved to be reproduced in full. In it, he outlines the threats we face, the changes to the balance of power across the world and how we need to change our attitudes and foreign policy to meet these new realities. Enjoy.

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: Tories might pull their hair out but they’re not going to get a parliamentary veto in the EU

Former Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Edward McMillan-Scott has been writing or Politics.co.uk about the Tories’ efforts to ensure that national parliaments can veto EU laws that they don’t like.

Edward clearly knows a fair bit about how the EU works, arguably significantly more than your average Eurosceptic Tory backbencher. He’s been in on the organisation within the EU that actually does represent the rights of national parliaments and it has asserted itself in recent years.

He explains how the process works:

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

@ALDEParty Council – mourning our losses in the bosom of our family and friends

I was the first of our delegation to reach Oslo, having concluded that there was little I could practically do to help at home by then and, arriving at the venue for the Friday evening fringe meeting, I was braced for the questions. “What went wrong? What will happen now? Who will be the new leader?”. And yes, I expected some sympathy, although the offer of political asylum in Norway was unexpectedly kind.

Perhaps, just perhaps, opening the event with a debate on the future of Liberal Europe was just a little too raw given events at home, but I did take the opportunity to ask the panel the question, “My political party has just suffered a near-death experience. What single piece of advice would you give me?”. The answer, rebuild from the floor. Rebuild your branch structure, develop some clear, liberal messages, give your members and activists something to believe in and campaign for.

Also posted in News | Tagged | 3 Comments

ALDE Party Council preview: remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue…

Whilst most of you will either be at your count (and good luck to you all!) or sitting in front of a television set or a computer watching the results come in, your correspondent will be in a hotel room in Oslo. Yes, it’s time once again for liberals from across Europe to gather and tell the British how sorry they are for the result/share the love and tell us things will get better/express surprise at how well we did (delete as appropriate). And despite exhaustion and uncertainty, a small, depleted and wholly male delegation will be there to fly the Liberal Democrat flag.

So, what are we there for, apart from the joy of discovering that a second mortgage is required to buy a beer?

Council will be opened with a speech from the Prime Minister of Norway… who isn’t a member of our host party, Venstre, but is leader of the Conservative Party. That said, the ruling minority coalition of the Conservatives and the Progress Party has a confidence and supply arrangement with Venstre and the Christian Democrats in the Storting to ensure its survival (and you thought that British politics was complex?).

The agenda for Council itself is unlikely to generate much excitement, although the membership application from the Liberal Party of Gibraltar is a welcome one, especially given their performance in the European Parliamentary election last year (the Liberal Democrat list – Gibraltar is part of the South West England region – gained 66% of the vote). There will also be a rationalisation of the Slovenes, as three of the five member parties there are expected to disaffiliate (they have, effectively, ceased to exist).

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

International Office supports the next generation of women leaders from Nasa Stranka, Bosnia’s ‘Women’s Party’

International officeSarajevo is not a city I ever expected to see, and Bosnia is not a country that I ever expected to be at the sharp end of encouraging women into political life. Yet here I was, travelling to Sarajevo with the International Office to encourage and train young women in the basics of being a councillor and a candidate!

Nick Thorne, Research Officer in the International Office, travelled with me and we were later joined by Sara Bashford, a Conservative Councillor, and Anna Birley, a Labour Councillor, who were to work with us on cross-party sessions later in the weekend.

1 Comment

Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 8 Comments

Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens

Sunday morning in Kifissia, one of the leafy northern suburbs of Athens, and the view from my bedroom balcony is blue sky with dark clouds looming – a fitting scene for this very important Greek Election Day.

A product of the oil industry in Aberdeen, I am one of many Scottish expats supporting the oil and gas industry around the world (and lets not mention oil prices!). I have been working in Greece for a little over a year and after commuting between the Athens of the North and the real Athens for a year, I have been resident (and paying tax!) in Greece since November.

Greece has been going through a tough time in the last five years, unemployment is high and wages are low. Though there are few signs of austerity in the posh northern suburbs, my Greek colleagues (I am a lawyer) have lost faith in their politicians and their economy. Much though they love their country, pessimism is rife.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 27 Comments

Tim Farron writes… Never has the political market been so crowded in the UK. Never has there been more space for a Liberal Party.

I cannot start this article without expressing my deep shock and concern for the families affected by the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is stark warning that we can no longer take for granted the liberal order which our predecessors fought for.

It is a great honour to be appointed Foreign Affairs spokesperson and I want to thank Nick for giving me this opportunity. I am very aware that it is rare for foreign affairs to be the defining issue for most voters. But this election, as in so many other ways, is not running the usual course.

UKIP has brought …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: ALDE Party Council: Bouncing Czechs, “which Slovenes are the liberals?”*, and a prospective rise in the price of cod…

Whilst you might not have guessed it from those manifestos you read from candidates for places on the Party’s ALDE Council delegation, the policy debates were still in our future when Council made an early start on Friday morning.Our task was a straightforward one, debate changes to the constitution, including a revision of the membership structure, authorise the creation of a business club, consider six membership applications, receive and approve the 2015 budget and debate the report of the Bureau… in two hours (English Council, please note).

The constitutional changes were adopted, although there were concerns over the apparent absence of a code of conduct for fundraising. Luckily, a helpful British member of the Financial Advisory Committee was on hand to both reassure and clarify the position – there is one, it was available for circulation, and it could be applied to the proposed business club, a means for corporate sponsors to fund events without directly funding a political party’s campaigning activities.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

ALDE gather in Lisbon: setting sail for a new, more liberal world?

Sailing in Lisbon by Pedro Ribeiro SimõesOnce again, liberals from across the European Union and beyond gather this week for the Annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE). And whilst Portugal might not be the most obvious place, given the absence of a liberal party in Portuguese politics for some years now, the emergence of the Earth Party as a serious contender – it won two seats (out of twenty-one) in this year’s European Parliament election – makes Portugal an interesting place to be.

Tagged , and | 1 Comment

LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: Major adds new ingredient to Europe debate

edward mcmillan-scottFormer Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber has written about John Major’s intervention on Europe last week.

But Sir John’s intervention shows how desperate David Cameron is to shore up his dwindling store of continental goodwill, to appease the 100-or-so Tory MPs who want out of Europe and are holding their tongues until after the Rochester and Strood By-election this coming Thursday.

Although the headlines have focused on Ed Miliband’s leadership crisis, both he and Mr Cameron are now on notice. And bang on cue Nigel Farage – on target to win the by-election handsomely – positions himself between them with a demand to be included in TV debates.

How often have foreign leaders heard a British Conservative say “I really need your help: my backbenchers want to see real change?” and usually they have delivered. It is not weakness on their part but a strategic calculation that Britain must be part of the process, whether it is the EU or, say, Nato.

John Major’s speech was often equivocal about Mr Cameron’s tactics towards the EU, but he introduced a new note, massively upping the ante, by saying “for the first time, there is a serious possibility that our electorate could vote to leave the EU. I put the chance of exit at just under 50 per cent”.

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Paddy Ashdown on Bosnia and Herzegovina: “These are dangerous times; they are very dangerous times indeed”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, former international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006, led this week’s House of Lords debate on the situation in the country following its recent election. Here’s what he had to say…

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, a few months before the last election in the last months of 2009, my right honourable friend William Hague and I—well, at least he was not my right honourable friend then, but he is today; he was then the shadow Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—wrote a joint article for the British and foreign press on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We complained bitterly that Bosnia was stuck, that the progress that we had made during the previous 10 years had gone backwards, that the tone of nationalistic rhetoric had risen, that this was dangerous and that Bosnia remained stuck in a mire of dysfunctionality and corruption.

Also posted in Parliament | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Botswana elections: Liberal Democrats help sister party and its “calm revolutionary of our time”

Three chiefs and justice gaborone botswana by BoHeMIoYesterday was polling day in the General Election in Botswana. 57 parliamentary seats are up for grabs along with council seats across the country. The Botswana Democratic Party has been in power since the country gained independence in 1966. The Liberal Democrats have been helping our sister party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy, which has been fighting the election as part of a coalition of opposition parties, the Umbrella for Democratic Change. In early August, their campaign suffered a huge blow when BMD leader and Vice Presidential candidate Gomolemo Matswaledi was killed in a car accident on the way back from a visit to Johannesberg.

Top Liberal Democrat campaigns guru Victoria Marsom, who has the by-election victories in both Brent and Eastleigh under her belt, has been working closely with the BMD for the past year as part of a project funded by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. She’s travelled to Botswana twice, once in June and she’s there now for this last week of the campaign. I had a bit of a surprise the other night when I found this from her on my Facebook timeline:

Also posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 99 Comments

A setback for UKIP in the European Parliament, courtesy of one Latvian MEP…

After the European Parliament elections in May, there was a scramble amongst the political groupings in Brussels to gather enough MEPs (twenty-five) from enough countries (seven) to achieve recognition as a political group, with two groups in particular, the European Conservatives and Reformist Group – ECR (which includes the Conservative Party) and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group – EFDD (which includes UKIP) competing to attract individual MEPS to reach the required number of countries. At one point, it looked as though the EFDD would fall just short, but the recruitment of the Latvian Farmers Union MEP, Iveta Grigule, was enough to satisfy the eligibility clause.

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: We must embrace Putin to beat Islamic State

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Times about the need to get Russia onside in the fight against Islamic State.

Russia has so far been excluded from our coalition that is fighting Islamic State (Isis). Why? It has a dog in this fight, too — arguably a much bigger one than we have. Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields.

Washington friends tell me that the reason for this reluctance to draw in Russia is the personal animus between presidents Putin and Obama. If so, get over it. A wider coalition that includes the Russians, actively or passively, could open the way to a UN security council resolution, provide the best means of limiting the spread of the crisis and vastly enhance our horsepower in resolving it.

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , , , , and | 13 Comments

Nick Clegg explains Liberal Democrat ministers’ decision to support air strikes on ISIL

RAF lightning II aircraft photo by defence imagesNick Clegg has sent an email to all party members this evening to explain why the parliamentary party will be supporting air strikes on ISIL in Iraq.

It contains the entire broadcast interview which he did this afternoon. He talks about what a”vile and murderous” outfit ISIL is, about how the action is legal and how this isn’t being done by “the west” to “the rest”. It comes as part of a coalition of countries acting on a formal request from the legitimate government of Iraq.

Also posted in News and Parliament | Tagged , , and | 36 Comments

Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder on Lord Hill’s EU appointment: “A victory for British influence in Europe”

Catherine Bearder - Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0When David Cameron appointed Lord (Jonathan) Hill, an influential but anonymous Tory peer more used to operating in the background, the fear was he’d be sidelined by new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – especially after David Cameron’s attempt to veto Juncker’s candidacy. The portfolio for paper-clips (or trombones as they’d be known in Brussels) or some such. But, as ITV News reports:

In fact he’s been given one of the big economic jobs, and perhaps the one best suited to a UK Commissioner: financial services. Given London’s dominance and the EU’s known desire to clamp-down on everything from bonuses to a Financial Transaction Tax, this could hardly be better. It has long been the UK’s view that financial services regulation is best, where possible, left to the domestic regulator, and we can expect Lord Hill to take policy very much in that direction.

Tagged , , and | 53 Comments

Opinion: time to break the blockade of Gaza

For the last seven years, Israel – despite no legal mandate – has been imposing a naval blockade on Gaza’s sea port, leading to widespread poverty and starvation in that small coastal enclave.

The British government claims that it is doing all it can to end the blockade but, so far, its actions have proved fruitless. This is partly because the government has never pushed this matter as forcibly as they should, partly for fear of upsetting the powerful pro-Israeli lobby, both here and in the US Congress, and partly because it knows Israel will refuse to lift the blockade, as …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 48 Comments

ALDE sets sail for a new world from a old port

image aldeThe Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) have confirmed that they will be holding their next Annual Congress in Lisbon, Portugal, a country not known for its liberal politics in recent years.

However, as part of ALDE’s efforts to encourage the growth of liberal forces across the continent, links with a new group in Portuguese politics, Nos Ciadados (We Citizens) have been established, and it is hoped that, by meeting in Lisbon, that those links might be strengthened and nurtured.

In the light of the recent European Parliamentary election results, …

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Gaza: Clegg demands UK suspends arms export licences to Israel, Ashdown writes to Warsi to discuss next steps

With the truce in Gaza in its second day, and indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives taking place today, Nick Clegg has stepped up the pressure for the UK government to work more actively to secure peace in the area. The BBC reports:

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel, adding to the pressure David Cameron is facing over Gaza. … Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Israeli military operation in Gaza had “overstepped the mark” and called for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel. He said he

Also posted in News | Tagged , , and | 12 Comments

LibLink: Nick Clegg – Israel must open talks with Hamas

Clegg Speech 40Writing for today’s Guardian Nick Clegg has this to say about the ongoing conflict in Gaza:

The daily images of human torment in Gaza have been harrowing and heartbreaking. More than 1,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed. Were it not for international aid rations, half the population would be without food. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are seeking shelter in UN schools – and even these offer little safety.

It is difficult to deny that Israel’s military action appears disproportionate and, combined with the Gaza blockade, is resulting

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , , , and | 9 Comments

Opinion: UKIP are a blessing in disguise for pro-Europeans

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder works harder than nine UKIP MEPs put together. She speaks more sense than their entire delegation, of course, but in terms of turning up to vote, it’s official: the number of European Parliament divisions she’s taken part in since the election is more than the combined total of nine of their lot.

Since the new Parliament started at the beginning of July, MEPs have faced 39 roll-call votes in the plenary. This is where all MEPs come together to speak and vote, usually in Strasbourg. Catherine, our sole representative in the European Parliament, has voted on …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 43 Comments

Opinion: Beware conflating offence with racism – Don’t demand David Ward’s expulsion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently saw for the first time the new monument commemorating the sacrifices paid by the men of RAF Bomber Command during World War II. It was a moving memorial, as well as an interesting one. We don’t celebrate the deliberate firebombing of German cities these days: we are thankfully queasy about the thought of the mass targeting of civilians. But the erection of this monument shows that although we – uncomfortably perhaps – understand that those fighting that awful war were compromised morally by their actions, we nevertheless sympathise with those who believed that the missions they flew had some military and economic justification.

I ask people to bear this in mind when considering whether or not David Ward should have the whip withdrawn for his tweets expressing sympathy with Gazans (some of whom are) firing rockets at Israeli cities. Some – many – will find the implications of what he says offensive. But we should be careful about citing offense as justification for the sacking of our political representatives. Especially as liberals.

As others have said, we would not call for the expulsion of an MP who expressed sympathy for Israelis motivated to extend their period of military service in reaction to the rockets fired from Gaza. We do not call for the expulsion of MPs who defend sales of British arms to Israel, even though we know there is a strong likelihood of their being used against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 41 Comments

Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Working with the new European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeWhile the UK media has been focusing on Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle and what it means for the Tories’ 2015 election strategy, an even bigger shake-up has been taking place in the running of the European Union. A bit like during the Lib Dem European election campaign, the most frequently heard words this week in Brussels and Strasbourg have been “jobs, jobs, jobs”, and this time it is all about our own.

The last time we were in Strasbourg two weeks ago the Parliament sorted out who got what …

photo by: e³°°°
Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

A longer read for the weekend… Edward Lucas on the threat posed to peace by Russia and what the West should do about it

edward lucasEdward Lucas worked for Paddy Ashdown, has helped at by-elections, and was active in the National League of Young Liberals (NLYL) and the Union of Liberal Students (ULS). He’s better known, though, for being a senior editor at The Economist and an expert on energy, cyber-security, espionage, Russian foreign and security policy and the politics and economics of Eastern Europe. In 2008 he wrote The New Cold War, a prescient account of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. In 2011 he wrote Deception, an investigative account of east-west espionage. And earlier …

Also posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 64 Comments

Departing female EU commissioners lobby for more women in new Commission

Neelie Kroes 10 or MoreThe current 8 female EU commissioners have written to new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to support his call for member states to appoint more women. The commissioners stated that they wanted to see at least 10 women appointed. The picture shows Dutch liberal commissioner Neelie Kroes holding up her hands to show symbolise support for the Ten or More campaign.

Their letter said:

Also posted in News | Tagged , , and | 11 Comments

Opinion: How about a cross-party declaration on an EU renegotiation and referendum?

referendum2One way or another, there’s going to be an EU referendum, and we must not just let it happen.

Pressure is mounting on David Cameron to move before 2017 and on Ed Miliband to shift from a perfectly clear position to one which is more “acceptable” to the sceptical groundswell. I’ve seen Tim Montgomerie suggesting that the spitzenkandidat system is a transfer of power to Brussels and might therefore trigger the referendum lock. Unfortunately for him, the legally enshrined vote is an in/in decision, and there’s no formal move – treaty …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 3rd Aug - 1:58pm
    Bill le Breton For those of us not on Twitter, what did Jonathan Calder tweet?
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 3rd Aug - 1:54pm
    Steve Excellent comment and very useful link. I'd take issue only (partly) with your last sentence: I don't think there's anything wrong with being an...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 3rd Aug - 1:49pm
    Can we get back to the theme of the article. Labour are split with 90% of the MPs on one side & 80% of the...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 3rd Aug - 1:46pm
    What Jonathan Calder tweeted, but without the question mark ... or the wink.
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 3rd Aug - 1:46pm
    Psi I absolutely agree with your comments about the need to look beyond the gates of Calais. However, I fear that for many people (I...
  • User AvatarSteve 3rd Aug - 1:41pm
    @TCO Here's a good article on the subject: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/07/29/calais-migrant-crisis-why-happening-cause_n_7896038.html The top reasons would seem to be language and family/contacts in the UK - those are...