ALDE Party Council – give ‘em the old razzle dazzle…

Escaping Storm Babet, albeit not by much, Thursday saw me heading to the Paris of the East, and capital of Romania, Bucharest. After the various travelling calamities that befell the delegation to Stockholm in June, I wasn’t taking any chances on arriving on the day of the meeting, and reached my destination to find the sun shining and the temperature pleasantly warm. Perhaps it was a good omen…

In truth, the most controversial item on the agenda was always going to be the urgency resolution on the situation in Israel and Palestine, given that European liberals have quite divergent views on who is to blame and what should be done. However, our delegation leader, and Chair of Federal International Relations Committee, David Chalmers, had decided that the best way forward was to draft something which might attract majority support in advance and, after some discussion amongst our delegation, with valued input from our Parliamentary Foreign Affairs team, we had been able to circulate something to our sister parties that, I thought, had a real chance of success.

Now writing any resolution on the current situation is challenging enough, but when you only have three hundred words, and are attempting nuance with colleagues for whom English is not their first, or sometimes even second, language, the scale of the task is clear. But, by the time we reached Bucharest, twelve of our sister parties had agreed to co-sign it and, we thought, there was a genuine prospect of passing something that said something meaningful yet remained acceptable to as many as possible.

As Council delegates assembled on a sultry Friday evening though, there were still some holdouts, with the prospect of a potentially ugly showdown the next morning. But, whilst our hosts, USR (Union to Save România) were welcoming us to Bucharest with loud music, a light show and confetti cannons, and apparently launching their European candidate list – which probably explained the media interest – David was continuing to negotiate.

One of the things that tells you how much your hosts want to impress you is the evening reception. And when we were bussed to the National Theatre and whisked up to the rooftop terrace, it was clear that they were keen to make an impression. And whilst arms were being gently twisted in corners, the rest of us got with the onerous task of enjoying good food, catching up with colleagues from sister parties and taking in the skyline. I will admit though that one of the things that improves the views is that you can’t actually see the National Theatre…

I am not a morning person, but when your delegation leader makes it clear that your presence at an 8 a.m. urgency resolution is not optional, you pay heed. And given that this would be the culmination of David’s efforts to get the resolution passed, our voting strength might have been needed. There was opposition, but the deals held, and it was agreed that, with some minor drafting amendments, there was nothing to be gained by accepting, or passing, any further changes, lest the carefully crafted compromise fell apart.

After that, Council itself was surprisingly uneventful. A new Secretary General, Didrik de Schaetzen, was confirmed, the planning for next year’s European Parliamentary elections was outlined, the 2024 budget approved. It was all rather technical – as I’ve noted in the past, a bit like English Council but in more interesting locations.

We have two new Italian sister parties, Azione and Liberali Democratici Europei, and it’s just like the old days, when we had multiple Italian members, but hopefully they can make a breakthrough and win some seats next year, alongside Piu Europa.

And the Israel/Palestine resolution? Carried with overwhelming support, recognition of David’s efforts and a reminder that, if we are to continue to play a key role in the future of European liberalism, it will be hard work and relationship building that matter, rather than our past glories.

All in all, I’d have to judge the event a success from a Liberal Democrat perspective, thanks both to strong leadership (David, our Vice Chair, Hannah Bettsworth and our cool as a cucumber International Officer, Isabelle Pucher) and a diverse and knowledgeable delegation who aren’t there just to enjoy the scenery.

The next meeting is an Extraordinary Congress, expected to be in Brussels the week after our Spring Conference in York. It’ll be a bittersweet affair as, for the first time, we’ll be on the outside with our noses pressed against the glass, as a European manifesto is adopted and a spitzenkanditat elected. Oh well, they might yet need a neutral Returning Officer…

* Mark Valladares is, as much to his surprise as anyone, a veteran member of the Party’s delegation to ALDE Party Council and Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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  • Maybe I missed it reading through the report, but do you say which organisation it was that was meeting in Bucharest? 🙂 And also – don’t keep us in suspense – what did this amazing resolution that was the subject of so much work and compromise and negotiation actually say in the end? 😉

  • Nigel Jones 23rd Oct '23 - 4:27pm

    Sorry Mark, but I find your article frustratingly long because you end without saying anything of what the resolution contains.

  • @Nigel – agree, I suspect part of the problem is that it’s no where nearly as well articulated as this Dail statement:

    Which also nicely illustrates just how poor our Westminster politicians are, the closest we probably got in recent times were: David Owen, Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy…

  • Big Tall Tim 23rd Oct '23 - 10:34pm

    Roland – None of those you mentioned were actively involved in ALDE. So, I don’t understand your point?

  • @Martin. Ah yes, I did miss that – although to be honest that wouldn’t have helped because without your clarification I would have had no idea what ALDE was.

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