Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

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I ask people to bear this in mind when considering whether or not David Ward should have the whip withdrawn for his tweets expressing sympathy with Gazans (some of whom are) firing rockets at Israeli cities.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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#SelfEU: the way to win a day with ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt*

Guy VerhofstadtYes, the #selfEU is actually a thing, as ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt promotes his campaign to become the next President of the European Commission:

THE ONE AND ONLY “SELF-EU” CONTEST
It’s simple, just send us an EU selfie or a #selfEU, and you could win a day with Guy Verhofstadt.

The EU is about more than rules and regulations. Show us your favourite thing about the EU. Did you just board an airplane on a cheap flight, cross a border without having to use your passport or change currencies, or

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Opinion: Smog and why we need the European Union

Smog from Primrose Hill LondonWe have suffered poor air quality across south east England for days. The authorities warned older people and people with cardiovascular problems to stay indoors. Ambulance call-outs in London rose by 14%, and David Cameron abandoned his usual morning jog, describing conditions as, “Unpleasant, but it’s a naturally occurring weather phenomenon.”

Although worse in urban centres, poor air quality has been a concern for years in some villages on major roads in West Sussex; air pollution is widespread.

photo by: Luton Anderson
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Opinion: Nick v Nigel – Cheer up Liberal Democrats (and other pro-Europeans)

Farage cleggSome Liberal Democrats, and other pro-Europeans, seem to be rather down about the outcome of the Nick v Nigel debate. Certainly it is depressing to see your fellow citizens support a man who professes admiration for Vladimir Putin. But Nick Clegg really was up against first-class populism on Wednesday night. Farage dropped every conceivable fear or concern about the modern world at the door of the European Union. Would you like an end to war, waste, politicians, people speaking foreign on the train and every problem the outside world bothers …

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The Swiss Wheeze: the Better Off Out argument that’s full of holes

Swiss CheeseIf only we were Switzerland, eh? That’s the dream of the Better Off Out brigade, who long for its freedom as part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). And it’s a tempting offer: all the benefits of free trade with EU member states, and (if you believe Nigel Farage, Dan Hannan et al) none of the risks.

Except it’s not quite that easy, as The Economist highlighted when it investigated Britain’s options.

photo by: Filter Forge
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Fraser Nelson is wrong: Cameron’s supposed EU re-negotiation allies are set on a very different path

european union starsLike so many Eurosceptics, Fraser Nelson was at it again this morning in the Telegraph: taking a couple of things they heard from foreign politicians and adding it all up to make something that matches exactly what they want: less Brussels.

Nelson was continuing his theme from the Spectator a couple of weeks ago, describing a Northern Alliance Cameron had been building to reform the European Union in his image. There is one problem with all that: it simply is not true.

In the UK, the Dutch are …

photo by: notarim
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Latest Euro poll shows how, in this May’s elections, every %-age point matters for the Lib Dems

clegg farage lbcInterest in the outcome of May’s European elections is picking up, at least judged by the number of polls the newspapers are commissioning – four have been published in the last fortnight. Here’s the average support for the parties:

    Labour – 30%
    Ukip – 26%
    Conservative – 24%
    Lib Dems – 9%

Converting that into seats using EuroElection predict’s online gizmo would produce the following figures:

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Your essential Nick v Nigel debate reader: 15 articles to get you match-fit ahead of tonight’s live encounter

Today’s the day of the first Nick v Nigel debate. Here’s your essential reader ahead of tonight’s first encounter between the Lib Dem and Ukip leaders…

Three LibDemVoice articles…

First, let’s recall how the debate came about – Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to the debate live on his LBC radio phone-in last month: “It’s a brave, maybe audacious move,” said my co-editor Caron Lindsay, “but Nick has never been one to shy away from a challenge. He’s also honed his already good debating skills since his success in 2010.”

And as I pointed out then, it was a smart …

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Awards for Liberal Democrat MEPs Chris Davies and Andrew Duff

EU Parliament Brussels - Some rights reserved by PoetografieGood news from Brussels. Two Liberal Democrat MEPs have won awards in the MEP Awards 2014.

First up was Chris Davies for his work to secure sustainable fishing through Fish for the Future.

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LDVideo: Chris Davies MEP “UKIP are not there when it matters”

Chris Davies has been speaking in the European Parliament about the voting record of his UKIP colleagues and how they just don’t turn up for important votes. He also mentioned how one turned up to a vote on e-cigarettes not long after UKIP received a donation from an e-cigarette manufacturer. That, he said, was the price of a UKIP vote.

He called their voting record dire and said that they were well known for taking their money but did precious little to defend the interests they hold dear.

And he did it all in his own inimitable style.

Enjoy.

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George Lyon MEP writes…Brave mountain rescue teams should not have to pay VAT on essential, lifesaving kit

We were navigating in near zero visibility in a white-out.

As I was navigating I put my foot out and onto nothing, and fell down about 800ft of sheer cliff.

You figure you have had it.

These are the words of 25 year old Scot Ollie Daniel, who plunged through snow while walking in the Cairngorms in January this year.

In Scotland we are lucky to have some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the world. Walkers and climbers are a common sight in the Highlands and Islands all year round. But we know that these activities are not without risk.

Ollie was rescued …

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Lib Dems as ‘The Party of IN’ – Clegg’s pro-European strategy starts to pay off

nick clegg v nigel farageKudos to Nick Clegg and his team, including his director of strategy Ryan Coetzee. The gambit of issuing a personal challenge to Nigel Farage to debate Nick on Europe has been accepted not only by the Ukip leader, but also now by the media. As Caron Lindsay reported here this morning – #NickvNigel – We have a date and #NickvNigel: We have 2 dates – any more for the Tour? – the two leaders will face-off both on TV and on radio within the next …

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Paddy: We’re one mistake away from war in Ukraine

Paddy AshdownWhenever there’s a horrible international situation, I always want to hear what Paddy Ashdown has to say. He’s very wise on all the intricate web of international relations, agendas and history. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s worth listening to because he’ll tell it exactly like he sees it. He makes it all so much more real.

He’s just been on Murnaghan talking about the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he confirmed my feeling that the world is a very much more scary place this weekend.

He was very clear that one foolish mistake could tip a volatile situation into war. That, he said, could be one “trigger-happy” Russian soldier opening fire, a Ukrainian misjudgement of a situation. Something that could very easily happen in the heat of a tense moment.

He said that it wasn’t clear what the Russians were up to. He said it was possible, but unlikely, that their ambitions were limited to securing their international treaty defined rights of access to the port of Sevastopol rather than wider territorial gain. He likened Putin’s stance to Hitler’s over Sudetenland as opposed to the modern Western view that the fate of nations is subject to the view of its people.

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP: Cameron’s EU policy plays into Putin’s hands

Edward McMillan Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament with responsibility for human rights and democracy has been writing about how David Cameron’s European policy has enabled Russia’s President Putin to develop his strategy for a Eurasian Union based on illiberal and anti-democratic values.

He opens by outlining the problems faced by Angela Merkel with the rise of the eurosceptic right wing AFD:

Events in Ukraine may still overshadow Thursday’s trip to London by Angela Merkel, during which David Cameron will seek her support for EU reform.  She will not be pleased that Cameron has allowed his Eurosceptics to continue talks with

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Graham Watson MEP writes: The time has come for the EU to take decisive action over Ukraine

The past twenty four hours has seen the situation in Ukraine escalate from serious to critical. We are only now seeing the true extent of the clashes between police and anti-government protestors, with the number of fatalities standing at 26 but set to rise as the violence continues. What is clear is that last night’s attack on protestors by the police was at the direct order of the Ukrainian government. While the government claimed it was simply aiming to restore law and order, the underlying motive was for President Yanukovych to reassert his legitimacy. As far as I am concerned, …

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