Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

Season 2: The state of play in Spain ahead of the election on 26 June

It’s often said that we no longer have The Thick of It because politics can no longer be effectively satirised in Britain. You could say the same about Spain (although there is a Catalan programme that makes a valiant effort.)

After the last round of post-election negotiations failed, it sometimes seems like you’re watching a particularly dramatic TV show. The polls have remained fairly static, and where there are variations in the number of seats in the new election on  26th June they will be reasonably small.

However, there has been one large development – Podemos and Izquierda Unida (IU) have formed an electoral pact (the Pact of the Beer Bottles) for this round. Iglesias has made no secret of the fact that his goal is to overtake the PSOE (Socialists) in seats, but his party was starting to drop in the polls. Alberto Garzón’s IU was benefiting from that, so those two will likely make some form of gain there.

In Britain, we know all too well that when the election results are uncertain and the system very polarised, more moderate parties lose out. In the same way that the Tories and the SNP fed off each other, the PP and this new Unidos Podemos (Together We Can) formation happily do the same. The PP paint themselves as the sole force that can stop the Unidos Podemos (UP) threat, which plays into UP’s hands in the same way that Cameron’s fearmongering played into Sturgeon’s.

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‘Strategic patience’ in Tbilisi

For the first time ever, Liberal International has held its Executive Committee in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, at the invitation of the Republican Party of Georgia. Regional and global security were at the top of the agenda, with a strong presentation by Georgia’s Defence Minister, Tinatin ‘Tina’ Khidasheli on the challenges facing former Soviet republics now finding themselves on the periphery of an expansionist Russia.

To drive the point home, we participants were all bussed out of the city to the ‘occupation line’, which marks the current limit of Russian encroachment into Georgian territory just south of South Ossetia (which the Russians have already effectively annexed, as they did with Ukraine’s Crimea). Just days before, the Russians had rolled a giant barbed wire fence further into Georgian territory, leaving some Georgian farmers cut off from their land and families divided. Tens of thousands of Georgians have already fled South Ossetia and have been resettled or temporarily rehoused.

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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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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 27th Jun - 2:22am
    Looks like there isn't. I suppose I should set one up....if nobody else will bother.
  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 27th Jun - 2:18am
    I agree with Mary that this petition is a nonsense (and it would be pointless to debate nonsense in the House of Commons, albeit that...
  • User AvatarBelinda Brooks-Gordo 27th Jun - 1:51am
    Stop this love-in right now and give our pooches a mention. Yes newbies, there is a nascent libdem soppy dog owner tribe who post daft...
  • User Avatarmatt 27th Jun - 1:00am
    well what is the purpose of saying you think 4% of people changed their mind since they cast that vote. even if those 4% had...
  • User AvatarSimon Shaw 27th Jun - 12:32am
    @matt "Where is the evidence to support such a claim??" I don't need evidence and I'm not make a claim. I'm saying what I think....
  • User AvatarChristopher Tanner 27th Jun - 12:28am
    Regarding the lessons from the 1979 Scottish Devolution vote, it is a pity we did not insist on similar conditions being placed on this one....