ALDE Party Council – so many thoughts, so little time…

It was grey and dank as I strode briskly through the quiet morning streets of Bratislava en route to one of those modern, efficient hotels that are so much a feature of European city centres these days. I was a man on a mission, eager to contribute my knowledge and wisdom to the cause of European liberalism. And then I arrived at the ALDE Party Council meeting…

In fairness, the meeting started with a tribute to our fallen colleague, Robert Woodthorpe Browne, with contributions from the co-Presidents, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Timmy Dooley, Phil Bennion (Chair of our Federal International Relations Committee) and Manfred Eisenbach, who likened his friendship with Robert to that of Stadler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show.

The agenda was a full one, and might have been more successful with a firmer hand from the chair, which led us to getting bogged down quite early with a long discussion about preparations for the 2024 European elections, and especially the future relationship with the non-ALDE parties in the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament. There was a widely held sense that our French partners in Renaissance have disproportionately dominated affairs and that some pushback is required.

All of that said, there is a sense that preparations are already well under way for elections that are still seventeen months away. Additional office space has been taken on, new staff are being employed and the manifesto drafting process is in place. If only we had a part to play…

We were, unfortunately, far adrift in terms of the running order, and as the noon finishing time approached, delegates were slipping away in ones and twos to catch trains and planes. And, with so much of the agenda left to cover, debate was becoming increasingly truncated.

The finances are sound, albeit that Council was given rather less financial information than one might like. Approving a budget when you haven’t got an idea as to how the current year is looking is “challenging”, but with significantly increasing amounts of income, and the effects of the transition from pandemic conditions to relatively normality, meaningful scrutiny would be speculative at best.

There is ongoing concern about suggestions that political parties from non-EU member states might no longer be permitted to be full members of European Union political parties. For us, that would be deeply unfortunate, but for countries who are either already in the European Economic Area, or are candidates for accession, it seems positively perverse to exclude them from the sort of relationship that would enable them to influence the debate as Europe evolves. We were reassured that such proposals are being fought, and fought hard.

The membership issues were pleasantly straightforward, with the application from PDK, Kosovo, approved with little or no dissent, whilst Pokret Slobodnih Građana, Serbia and the newly formed Action for Andorra were welcomed warmly. However, there was continued concern about the participation of our sister party, Liberalerna, in a right-wing coalition dependent on votes from the Swedish Democrats. Ongoing monitoring will take place to ensure that they don’t stray dangerously far from the liberal mainstream.

Twenty(!) Urgency Resolutions had been debated the previous day and whittled down to a mere seventeen and were dealt with by simply moving them all to a vote, allowing no opportunity for further debate. Liberal Democrat resolutions on China, Iran, the FIFA World Cup and hate crime were all successfully passed, even if the hard work done by a number of the delegation to achieve that went unremarked in Council.

That brought us to a potential flashpoint. It has been proposed to effectively abolish the current Individual Members group and replace it with what might best be described as a supporters group, with a resultant loss of participation rights. As you might imagine, the leadership of the Individual Members don’t intend to go quietly, but were politely rebuffed from the Chair. It was pointed out that what was before us were proposals to effect the proposed abolition, not the abolition itself.

We sped through brief updates on how policy working groups were progressing, noting that Phil Bennion is now chairing the climate change and environment group, and on an updating of the Stuttgart Declaration, the founding document of the ALDE Party in 1976. The language of the mid-seventies probably doesn’t reflect a Europe very different to that of the current day, but one likes to think that the underlying principles are relatively timeless.

We’d overrun by more than an hour, but we finally reached the end of our business. Next time in Stockholm…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Party’s delegation to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

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One Comment

  • Massimo Ricciuti 6th Dec '22 - 1:21pm

    Thank you, Mark!!!
    In these days, in Italy, we started liberal federation project with (and from) ItaliaViva and Azione parties. Then +Europa and many other groups will join us to build a new and bigger LibDem party!

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