Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

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. 

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

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.

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

EURef latest round-up: Putin, investment risks and some bar charts…

Recent days provided plenty of new developements about the EU Referendum.

Putin gains from exit

The person with most to gain from Brexit is Putin, writes Liberal European Leader Guy Verhofstadt MEP in the Guardian.

More expert concern that Brexit is bad for investment

If you prefer video to written news, see this discussion between senior investors Anne Richards and Simon Smiles on the pound risk of Brexit, from Bloomberg News.

Another investment CEO, Richard Buxton, has warned of the danger of Breixt is deterring investment.

Stronger IN video exposes Exit’s double-speak

The Stronger IN campaign have published a video mocking the contradictory statements of Exit campaigners.

Also posted in Europe Referendum | 2 Comments

LibLink: Nick Clegg: My birthday wish is that we win the argument for staying in the EU

Nick Clegg’s first Standard column of the New Year is published on his birthday. Twitter was not exactly heaving with birthday wishes as midnight passed, but there were some:

Anyway, when he blows out the 49 candles on his birthday cake today, he’ll be wishing that we stay in the EU. I thought they weren’t supposed to come true if you told them, but there is some relevance to the paragraph he spends going on about the misery of a January birthday. What was happening around the time he was born?

On this day 49 years ago, British diplomats were preparing for negotiations with the six founder members of the European Economic Community — Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — over our application to join. It was our second attempt to get into the European club, having tried four years earlier only to be rebuffed with a haughty “Non!” from Charles de Gaulle.

The debate about whether we should be in or out was remarkably similar to the one we are having today. People on the pro side of the argument believed it was in our economic and strategic interest to join; the antis warned it would lead to the surrender of too much British sovereignty. Plus ça change.

Also posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 12 Comments
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  • User AvatarRoland 11th Feb - 1:44am
    Stephen Hesketh - "So Roland, you believe that before we had political parties, the wealthy men in Parliament represented their constituents and placed constituent’s interests...
  • User AvatarChris_sh 11th Feb - 1:21am
    @Denis Mollison You may not like the terminology but it is a fairly standard phrase and it's not particularly rude I think. "if a party...
  • User AvatarLorenzo 11th Feb - 12:58am
    P.S. Suart I liked your approach , it is a subject very dear to my heart . Your patience with my level of gusto, previously...
  • User AvatarRoland 11th Feb - 12:47am
    We can’t complain as much over snap referendums like what happened with Crimea if we then have a snap referendum of our own. Strange concept...
  • User AvatarRoland 11th Feb - 12:39am
    John - Is it just me who is offended when those trained at considerable expense to the state threaten to take their newly (and not...
  • User AvatarLorenzo 11th Feb - 12:36am
    Stuart Thank you for your measured response.I agree and disagree .First clarity .Gradewas unacountable when at the BBC , and is again as a Tory...