And so the 30th ELDR Congress in Barcelona is over, and most of the delegates have returned to the four corners of Europe from whence they came. They will have done so in good spirits after what was a pretty successful gathering.
In policy terms, the theme resolution, Liberal Answers For A New Prosperity, reasserts a conviction that a competitive business environment, married to an efficient, affordable and sustainable system of social protection is necessary to achieve the highest possible standard of living for Europe’s citizens. Liberal Democrats at home would be happy to endorse calls for smarter regulation of the financial sector and for a reduction of the administrative burdens on business generally.
In other policy discussions, Liberal Democrat resolutions on energy and climate change, on agriculture and on Cyprus were passed with relatively minor amendments, although our proposals for addressing the activities of the far right across Europe were narrowly defeated.
The key note speeches, including one from Guy Verhofstadt, the new leader of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) Group in the European Parliament, were well received, and the debate ‘Kick-starting Europe’s Economy’, featuring EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes and Professor Dominick Salvatore, touched upon the importance of improving the quality of supervision and the impact on competition policy.
It was particularly interesting to discover that, whilst Lehman Brothers might have been horribly over-leveraged at the time of its collapse, there were European banks, such as UBS, Deutsche Bank and Barclays that were even more leveraged.
The election for four Vice-Presidents of the ELDR Bureau was very hard-fought. Whilst Markus Loning from the FDP (Germany) and Leoluca Orlando from Italia dei Valori were elected to the Bureau with Liberal Democrat support, Kristiina Ojuland from the Reform Party of Estonia lost her seat, and Marc Guerrero from the host organisation, Convergencia Democratica de Catalunya, and Lousewies van der Laan from Democraten ’66 were unexpectedly, in some quarters at least, successful. The Liberal Democrat nominee for Treasurer, David Griffiths, was elected unopposed, as was Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck to her third and final term as President.
And so, an excellent advertisement for European liberalism was concluded, and I would strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in European affairs to attend the next Congress, to be held in Helsinki, Finland, in mid-October 2010. If Barcelona was anything to go by, there will be spare slots on the delegation, and some fresh faces would be more than welcome …