ALDE Party Council: “The sun lounger can wait, Brad, there are only twelve months to save Europe!”

From Yerevan and Lisbon, from Mariehamn and Palermo they came, not necessarily to put the world to rights immediately, but to at least organise the processes by which it might happen.

Ah yes, process – not an obvious reason to come to Pula, in Istria on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, I admit, but that was what brought European liberals together for the Spring meeting of the Council of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE). The promise of warm sun, blue sky and crystal clear waters couldn’t have had an influence, surely?

There were two key issues to be discussed, the drafting of a manifesto for the 2014 European Parliamentary election and the selection of a candidate for the Presidency of the EU Commission. But how to do these things?

The obvious option of a multilingual game of ‘rock, scissors, paper’ having been ruled out, along with my personal favourite of dressing seven random European liberals as penguins and asking them to write ideas on a suspended whiteboard whilst standing on a greased, revolving platform, a lengthy debate took place on how the manifesto should be drafted, to what timetable and by whom. I’ll cover the outcome in a separate article, because the debate and its outcome will be of continuing interest, and offers an opportunity to you, gentle reader, to shape the manifesto personally.

As a result, the atmosphere was already slightly tense when the formal Council meeting began. What better way, however, to calm matters down with consideration of potential new members of the liberal family?

The European Party of Ukraine has emerged from the chaos of that country’s politics, working towards greater European rapprochement of the country and defending the interest of the middle class in the country as Ukrainian politics pays too much attention to “big business”. In the 2010 Presidential elections 2010 it supported Yulia Tymoshenko, saying that she was the only candidate supporting a European path for the country and preventing corruption and oligarchs taking over the country.

Åländsk Center (the Centre Party of the Åland Islands) is possibly the smallest political party to join a pan-European political grouping. With eight members of the parliament of the Åland Islands (out of thirty) and just 250 members, they are small, but perfectly formed, with the possibility of electing an MEP next year.

Both parties were accepted into ALDE with only minimal dissent.

What to do about the Presidency of the EU Commission? The Lisbon Treaty provides for the pan-European political parties to run candidates for this position, as well as other key jobs. But what are you looking for in a candidate, apart from the ability to do the job? What else might a candidate add to the Europe-wide campaign?

There was, I admit, some disagreement. Questions of timing, of a job description, with the knowledge that there were a number of potential candidates for our nomination, added a degree of calculation to the decision making. However, after a lengthy, and occasionally feisty debate, the Bureau proposal of a timetable leading to the announcement of a candidate in early 2014 was accepted.

And that was it, the only thing left being the date and venue of the next meeting. I can guarantee a few things. It won’t be warm, the water will be cold and grey, but it may be the biggest event in the history of European liberalism…

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.


  • Simon McGrath 12th May '13 - 7:48am

    Did anyone suggest that the candidate for the President of the Eu should be chosen by ballot of the members of the parties in ALDE?

  • “the drafting of a manifesto for the 2014 European Parliamentary election”

    That should be fun. Good luck with that.

  • Don’t let European focused activities take our eye off the ball in terms of reaching the British people, as leaving the EU is a real danger. We need to led in making the case to be in Europe, as Labour’s case will be lacklustre and the Tories will remain split on this to some degree. We need to brag about ALDE and Liberal Democrats successes and what Europe has positively achieved and show the reality of UKIPs (in)activity in Europe. Combating the too often one sided EU bashing in our media, we need to be critical friends of the EU and show how we are reforming it and making the difference in improving it as well as showing the benefits of being pro-EU.

  • Simon McGrath 12th May '13 - 4:41pm

    @mark – thanks for the answer.

    I fear we are going to be lumbered with Guy Verhofstadt who will be a gift to our opponents given his history of anti British comments

  • Mick Taylor 12th May '13 - 6:36pm

    Simon’s comments about Guy Verhofstadt are out of line.

    I was actually at the meeting and supported the Bureau’s recommendation for a timetable for choosing the ALDE nominees for the EUs top jobs.

    First of all, there are four top jobs to be filled.
    Second, all the council were doing was agreeing a timetable to select the person/people for each top job if ALDE decides to nominate for all 4 jobs.
    Third, No-one yet knows who might be nominated for any or all of the positions. It seems to me highly unlikely that one person would be nominated for all four.
    Fourth. Verhofstadt recently made one of the best speeches I have ever heard tearing Nigel Farage to shreds and exposing his failure to turn up for EU meetings but claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds. Guy is most certainly not anti the UK, though he is most certainly pro EU.
    Fifth. I’m not pushing for a Verhofstadt candidacy for anything, but candidates for the four top jobs that actually stand up for the EU would be a great advance on the mealy mouthed campaigns we have run where we avoid talking about Europe at all.

  • Simon McGrath 12th May '13 - 10:08pm


  • Committing in advance to nominating a candidate for the position of President of the EU Commission is almost certain to end in tears. You can be fairly certain that any candidate with the backing of most MEPs will be rejected by the European Council as it infringes on the leaders right to chose the Commission President – right they will not easily surrender.

    As it is, even were most leaders willing to back the EP’s choice for Commission President, it is pretty much a certainty that Cameron would veto such a choice. The government here has never been enthusiaistic about any form of direct elections for the Commission President and given the Conservatives are once again tearing themselves apart over the EU it is hard to see Cameron supporting anyone who is anything other than a care-taker Commission President. Cameron won’t sacrifice his leadership to allow the wishes of the either the electorate or MEPs to prevail.

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