ALDE Party Congress preview – day 1: a gentle warm-up before the drama commences

alde-congress-2016Welcome to Warsaw, where the cranes are busy bringing new skyscrapers to the city’s skyscape (don’t try to say that quickly…), and a thousand liberals from across Europe are meeting over the next three days.

To some extent, the event is dominated by Brexit – our sister parties are keen to adopt a common position on a European negotiating position, whilst simultaneously showing their support for pro-European forces in the United Kingdom (that would appear, given the Labour Party’s dithering on the subject, to be us). The welcome so far appears to be as warm as the outdoor temperature isn’t, with snow forecast this evening and through the night.

Our delegation of thirty-six, plus a dozen or so observers, is scheduled to meet this afternoon, and it will be interesting to see how the new faces will find a more collegiate, collaborative form of politics. We’re also keen that our delegates play an active role at the Congress, especially given the number of people who now want to attend and the limited number of spaces we have to offer.

So, what’s happening today?

Given the talk during the Referendum about a European army, this afternoon’s fringe meeting on the future of EU-NATO co-operation should be an intriguing one. Bear in mind that the ALDE Party’s membership includes a number of non-EU parties, from places such as Armenia, as well as our two Russian members.

There is also a meeting on the importance of data in winning elections. Whilst we in the Liberal Democrats have become more adroit in the use of data in recent years, it is often a problem for smaller member parties, especially given the seed capital needed to buy in expertise. One of the ALDE Party’s developing support functions is to offer such capacity centrally, which makes membership even more valuable than it already is. We may also get to find out what went wrong with the Clinton Presidential campaign, as Laura Laussade, who was involved in it, is one of the speakers.

Whilst the Bureau, including Vice-President Ros Scott, meets over dinner this evening, there is a session on tackling cybersecurity challenges, featuring Lousewies van der Laan, a board member of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and the former Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas, whose nation’s e-citizenship programme is a cutting edge example of what is possible, but is a target of Russian hackers.

The evening ends with a drinks reception, where there might be some vodka drunk. After all, when in Poland…

* Mark Valladares is, tomorrow, Antony Hook for two hours. He’ll explain everything later…

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