ALDE Party Council preview – Rome(o), Rome(o), wherefore art thou, Rome(o)…

Holding any international meeting in a time of plague is a challenge, but when the rules are in such a state of flux as has been caused by the Omicron variant, there is a sense that you might be better staying at home. But, despite the requires for tests, passports and all the associated hassle, at least some of the party’s delegation to ALDE Party Council will be travelling to Rome for meetings on Friday and Saturday. It is a hybrid meeting so, for those of us who, for various reasons, can’t or won’t travel, it will be another series of sessions in front of laptops or PCs.

The key matters of business are;

  • finance – the 2022 budget is to be adopted
  • membership – we have two applications from parties in Georgia and Lithuania
  • urgency resolutions
  • the future of the ALDE Individual Members group

One of the joys of state funding is a degree of predictability, and the fact that the ALDE Party receives most of its income via a direct grant from the European Commission does make for a rather less fraught financial position than is the case for British political parties. All of the European political groupings are funded in the same way, with strict limits on corporate and individual donations, and as funding has become more generous in recent years, it enables more Europe-wide campaigning, albeit restricted to the confines of the European Union.

The application for membership comes from a new political force, Strategy Aghmashenebeli from Georgia, whose application looked credible enough, and is supported by an existing ALDE Party member, the Republican Party of Georgia. Meanwhile, Laisvės Partija (Freedom Party) from Lithuania are looking to upgrade from affiliate status to full membership. They’re currently in government with three ministerial positions, and have certainly done the groundwork required to make approval seem a formality.

There is, as I write, only one urgency resolution, on the subject of Afghanistan, submitted by the Liberal Democrats and co-ordinated by George Cunningham, a member of our delegation and a former Deputy EU Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Some of our readers may be, or been, members of the ALDE Individual members group. The idea was to create a mass membership group to bring European politics closer to the people. I would have to say that, in that sense, it has been a failure, not big enough to have any significant presence, and not structured or organised enough to be anything other than a plaything for a few people who would quite like to be in charge of it. Perhaps we have allowed expectations to grow beyond what was credible, and the clash between the desire of individual members to lead a political movement has collided with the needs of member parties who want a means of organising a common platform and to exchange ideas and gain support.

The ALDE Party Bureau asked two of its members, Daniel Berg from Hungary, and our own Sal Brinton, to carry out an in depth review and to report back to Council, and they’ve done an excellent job of describing the issues and their significance. However, Council needs to decide where to go from here. I’m of the view that, in its current form, it serves little purpose and that instead we should give up the idea of a politically active group for the time being and create a group which individuals can join to support the work of the ALDE Party, keep up to date with political developments across the European Union and beyond, and offer their views via polling from time to time. That might not make me entirely popular with the current leadership of the ALDE Individual Members though…

We’ll also confirm the venue of the next Congress – Dublin in early June – in the hope that we might all be able to meet in person. I’m not entirely optimistic about that…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Party’s delegation to the ALDE Party Council.

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