Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

The ALDE Party Celebrates 40th Birthday

The Easter weekend marked the 40th Anniversary of formation of the Alliance of Liberal Democrats in Europe (ALDE). ALDE is a political party is formed of an alliance many of the liberal and democrat parties in Europe.

BBG ALDE

The ALDE party was founded on 26 March 1976 in Stuttgart in Germany. It was the first cross border political family. More can be read on the Stuttgart declaration at the ALDE party site but suffice to say it is based on the Oxford Manifesto of 1947 and was was formed from fourteen parties from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom as well as the International Liberal Youth Organisation and the Liberal Group in the European Parliament.

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Keeping Britain in the EU: How reassuring the sceptics should mean more than talk of “sovereignty”

Over the last few months the political media has been transfixed by David Cameron’s efforts to “renegotiate” Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Whilst Tim Farron quite rightly describes Cameron’s demands as having much more to do with keeping the Conservative Party together than fixing anything more fundamental about the EU, the reasons for making this effort are obvious: reassuring nervous eurosceptics that Britain still has influence in Europe and neutralising fears (however unjustified) that the British voice will be somehow overpowered.

Nigel Farage responded by calling Cameron’s deal “a slap in the face for Britain”. So far, so predictable.  Yet right at the core of eurosceptic complaints is so often the insidious, sometimes devious suggestion that nothing we hear from Brussels can be trusted. When Blair got an opt-out from the Euro, the sceptics said we’d be forced in anyway. When Brown got an opt-out from the Fundamental Charter of Fundamental Rights, the sceptics claimed the European Court of Justice would simply ignore it. Cameron says we have protection from being overrun by the Eurozone? The sceptics claim it isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

In their deluded yet strangely persuasive form of paranoia, the Kippers argue that, even if it all seems reasonable on the surface, we can never trust the EU to keep their word and that our courts and our Parliament will be (supposedly) powerless to stop them.

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Political disconnect in Calais and Dunkirk

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.30.54It is not surprising that media reports focus on the appalling conditions in the Calais and Dunkirk camps. On a recent trip Lord Roberts’ team saw for themselves how men, women and children live in knee-high mud, and brave the winter weather with little more than flimsy tents to keep the wind and rain at bay. In response to accusations that the British government are neglecting their humanitarian responsibilities, the Prime Minister champions the fact that under the Dublin Regulations, the UK has to allow family members of British people to claim asylum in the UK.

Despite the Dublin Regulations, the reality is that virtually no one can access this legal route. Many asylum seekers do not fully understand the unnecessarily complex system, and are unaware of exactly what their rights are; there are even reports of British passport holders unable to enter the UK from the camps. Despite government claims that British officials are present in the camp, these visits are occasional at best and offer no means of beginning an asylum claim. So although many asylum seekers in Calais and Dunkirk (as well as across Europe) have a legitimate legal right to claim asylum in the UK, it is incredibly difficult to access in practice. 

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Africa Liberal Network becomes largest liberal network outside Europe

International Office_with textSupported by the Liberal Democrats International Office, the Africa Liberal Network (ALN) has grown to become the largest network of liberal parties outside Europe, with 47 member parties from across 30 African nations. Taking place from 27 – 31 January 2016, the ALN held its 12th General Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by South Africa’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

With the theme of “Winning elections: the strategies, policies and solutions for success”, the General Assembly brought together nearly 80 delegates from 30 countries across the continent to discuss strategies to win elections and champion liberalism in their home countries. Through sharing techniques and approaches to campaign strategy, policy development and youth mobilisation, the ALN focused its efforts on helping member parties to win elections, emerge out of opposition and make liberal government a reality across Africa. Olivier Kamitatu, the ALN President, said in his opening speech:

ALN GA 1

The ALN has grown because Africa is at a crossroads and needs a liberal offering now more than ever. Our goal now must be to win elections across Africa in 2016-17.

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Farron and Brake say that those who killed Alexander Litvinenko must be held to account

Tim Farron and Tom Brake have reacted to this morning’s publication of the report into the nurder of Alexander Litvinenko which concluded that Andrei Lugovoi, a key ally of Vladimir Putin, and Dmitri Kovtun killed Litvinenko and that Putin probably authorised it.

Tim Farron said that those responsible must be held to account:

A UK citizen was killed on the streets of London with polonium. It was an attack on the heart of Britain, our values and our society.

I call for EU travel bans, asset freezes and coordinated action to deal with those who committed this evil assassination. I have called for a new Magnitsky Law to make sure that these people are held to account for what they did.

These assassins trampled over British sovereignty and we cannot let this go unanswered.

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Postcard from Tblisi: Visiting our liberal colleagues in Georgia

International Office_with textLast month I travelled with the Liberal Democrat International Office to visit our liberal colleagues, the Republican Party of Georgia (RPG), in Tbilisi – nestled between Russia and Turkey. The occasion was the Republican Party’s bi-annual Party Congress, and the Liberal Democrats had been invited to send a speaker for their discussions on the economy.

Politics in Georgia is a difficult to sum up in a few words. It is East meets West both politically and geographically; a country with a strong European identity but with Soviet overhangs. The Patriarch can condemn homosexuality and hold an open-air mass for the EU in the same week.

The RPG are a junior party in the Georgian Dream coalition government, with relatively few seats but a good chunk of influence. The rest of Georgian Dream leans a bit more populist and at times socially conservative. Fellow liberals the Free Democrats fell out of the coalition in 2014 in a bitter and personal dispute that ended in dubious corruption charges, while former governing party the UNM remain tainted by their corruption and abuses of power during their final term. And in the wings perhaps lies the spectre of pro-Russian political elements – often feared, but rarely seen.

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Paddy on “moral duty” to save starving Syrians

Paddy Ashdown has teamed up with Labour MP and former Oxfam staffer Jo Cox to make the case for urgent action to help not just those people suffering in Madaya but the 1 million Syrians suffering the effects of sieges. They wrote in the Telegraph:

The UN estimates that 400,000 people have been systematically denied food, medicine and water in medieval siege conditions in Syria: the real figure is probably nearer to one million. Meanwhile the Syrian Government plays grandmothers footsteps with the international community: besiege a city, wait for the political pressure to build, make limited or phoney concessions, and then, when everyone has lost interest, continue as before. Last year the UN made 91 requests of the Syrian government to secure humanitarian access across conflict lines. Less than a third of those have been approved. In total, only 13 cross-line convoys were completed.

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