Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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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, …

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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

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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

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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 …

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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.

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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°°°
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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 …

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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:

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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 …

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The Independent View: Pierre Trudeau and the Just Society – lessons for Canadian liberals today

Canada flag License Some rights reserved by archer10 (Dennis)The general election expected to be held in Canada next year will be a decisive one for the Lib Dem’s Canadian counterpart, the Liberal Party of Canada, as it faces the prospect of returning to office after more than eight years in the political wilderness.

With a recent poll showing the governing Conservatives trailing behind the Liberals, the party’s leader Justin Trudeau stands a good chance of becoming the first Canadian Liberal prime minister since 2006.

However, if Justin Trudeau …

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Antony Hook asks… Juncker nominated as next President of the European Commission – What happens next?

EU flagToday the European Council nominated Jean-Claude Juncker to be the next President of the European Commission. The heads of government of the 28 states voted overwhelmingly for Juncker. Only the UK’s David Cameron (European Conservatives and Reformists) and Hungary’s Viktor Orban (European People’s Party) voted against.

Juncker’s nomination reflects not only the European People’s Party’s status as largest group in the Parliament but also that it supplies more of the states’ heads of government than any other party. The Council’s nominee will go before the Parliament in its plenary, 14-17 …

photo by: rockcohen
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Opinion: What’s going on in Brussels? Nominations to the European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeFollowing on from my post last week on post-election developments in Brussels, here’s the second of two updates. Whilst yesterday’s focused on developments concerning the formation of political groups in the Parliament itself, today’s will address issues regarding nominations to the European Commission.

It now looks likely that at its meeting later this week (from 26th to 27th June), the European Council (made up of the Heads of Government from all 28 EU countries) will nominate the Parliament’s preferred candidate for the …

photos by: e³°°° & YanniKouts
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Opinion: What’s going on in Brussels? Political groupings in the European Parliament

European Parliament chamber, StrasbourgFollowing on from my post last week on post-election developments in Brussels, here’s the first of two updates. Today’s will focus on developments concerning the formation of political groups in the Parliament itself whilst tomorrow’s will address issues regarding nominations to the European Commission.

Political parties have until tomorrow, June 24th to form their European Parliamentary groups. In order to qualify as a group, you not only need at least 25 MEPs but these must be drawn from at least 7 EU countries represented in the Parliament.

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Principle and Realpolitik: why the Lib Dems should back an EU in/out referendum

EU Flag at the European Parliament at Strasbourg. Photo credit: Some rights reserved by European ParliamentMy co-editor Caron Lindsay has asked the following question, amid reports senior Lib Dems want the party to commit to an in/out EU referendum in the next parliament: “What do you think? Stay as we are or shift our position?”

My own view is the party has nothing to lose by offering a referendum in the 2015 manifesto. As I’ve pointed out before, the Lib Dem line on an EU referendum has been remarkably consistent over the last few years – far more so than the Tories (remember David Cameron’s cast-iron guarantee?) or Labour (remember 2004 EU referendum U-turn prior to their 2008 U-turn?).

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Opinion: Ontario Liberals show real Grit, win a fourth term and make history with the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Ontario Premier Kathleen WynneCongratulations to our cousins in the Ontario Liberal Party in Canada who, overnight, have won a remarkable fourth term of provincial government and, at the same time, have made history with leader Kathleen Wynne becoming the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Going into the election, the Liberals had been in a period of minority government and Wynne had taken over-a year ago from the by-then unpopular Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The party has been in Government in Ontario since 2003 and some pundits had predicted that the opposition Progressive Conservatives (I know, what an oxymoron, right?) would return to Government for the first time in over a decade…but Wynne and her team had other ideas!

photo by: Alex Guibord
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@ALDEParty Council preview – “How was it for you?”

image aldeIt seems like mere weeks since the last Council meeting of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), when optimism was in the air – admittedly helped by the presence of our Austrian hosts on that occasion, who were running an unashamedly pro-European campaign. Sadly, just six weeks later, delegates from across Europe gather in Brussels under rather less cheery circumstances.

The decimation of the British, German and Italian member parties in the European Parliament, plus the defection of the Romanians to the European People’s Party following merger with …

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European elections: vote Conservative, get Liberal?

election day 2014It’s polling day here and, indeed, in the Netherlands, as four days of voting for the European Parliament kick off. And, just possibly, whilst the Liberal Democrats are predicted to suffer losses here in the United Kingdom, the groundwork for the appointment of a liberal as President of the European Commission might be being prepared.

Christopher Flores, writing in the EU Observer, explains how;

Should a left coalition be blocked, the left will likely rally around one candidate in hopes of salvaging the loss of the Parliament by being able

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Nick Clegg’s Twitter Townhall as it happened

nick clegg live tweet town hall 1st may 2014Today, Nick Clegg took part in a remarkably simple and accessible Twitter Q&A on Europe, dubbed a “Twitter Townhall”. Via Storify and the LibDem party website, here below is the official version of how it happened, (almost) tweet by tweet.

Over on Caron’s Musings, LDV Co-editor Caron Lindsay gives her take on the event and presents the complete, unofficial version of the tweetery.

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Latest Euro election polls: Ukip take the lead, but what about the Lib Dems?

It’s the last day of April, a month which began with the second ‘Nick v Nigel’ debate and has seen 11 polls asking specifically about voting intentions in the European elections on 22nd May. Here’s what they show:

euro election polls april 2014

Quite a lot of movement, but the trend appears now to be that Ukip are in a clear first place above 30%, followed by Labour around 25%, then the Tories on 20%. The Lib Dems are some way back in fourth place, at or around 10%, with the Greens fluctuating …

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Opinion: I’m voting Lib Dem in spite of, not because of, our ‘Party of IN’ campaign

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.37 IN Europe EU European UnionIf you believe the messages sent out from ‘The Party Of In’ during this Euro-election campaign, then you might think that my current political position is logically confused and that I simply misunderstand the options before me on May 22nd. However, I intend to vote Lib Dem in the Euro-elections in spite, not because, of our on-going commitment to remaining in the European Union.

I do not pretend to be an expert on European matters – and I do not claim to be …

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