Next week sees the annual Congress of ELDR, the European Liberal Democrats, which takes place in the Sicilian city of Palermo from 23-25 November.
Apart from the debates on the current economic crisis and the 2014-20 EU budget, there will be elections for the President and four Vice-Presidents. At the time of writing, there is only one declared candidate to succeed Annemie Neyts, whose three terms as President have seen ELDR grow and flourish — Sir Graham Watson, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar. You can read his manifesto here.
Graham has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1994, where he has served as Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat delegation, as Chairman of the Committee on Justice and Home Affairs (1999-2001) and as Leader of the ALDE Group (2002-09). He was re-elected for a fourth mandate in 2009 and sits on the foreign affairs committee.
He became active in Liberal politics in the 1970s and has consistently demonstrated an interest in international matters: he was active as a Vice President (1977-79) and Secretary General (1979-81) of the International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth and as a founder member of LYMEC and served on the ELDR Council during the 1980s and early 1990s. He has also been centrally involved in the UK Liberal Democrats and served as head of the private office of the party leader from 1983-87.
Graham would like to see the ELDR Party expand to take in new member parties and build individual membership in member states where there is no effective Liberal force. He is convinced that a unique opportunity to exists to strengthen the Liberal family through the building of Europe’s first truly supranational political party.
Nominations close on 24 November, so his candidacy is by no means a shoo-in, but the absence of opposition at this stage must be encouraging.
* Mark Valladares is secretary to the East of England Liberal Democrats, and blogs at The view from Creeting St Peter.