ALDE Party Council – the view from the cheap seats…

Billed as the first meaningful opportunity for European liberals to meet in person since the pandemic started, approximately one hundred delegates and senior figures gathered at the Westin Excelsior hotel in Rome to scrutinise the work of the Bureau and to make decisions about the running and finances of the ALDE parry, along with half as many again online. The British delegation was split fifty-fifty, with five delegates in Rome, and five scattered around England and Wales, including me.

The event started with a speech from Sandro Gozi, the Secretary General of the European Democratic Party, who sit alongside ALDE Party MEPs in the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament, welcoming us to Rome and outlining why our co-operation is so important, before sashaying into the real business of the event.

As noted in my preview, the finances are sound, but I took the opportunity to ask the recently elected Treasurer, David Burke from Fianna Fail, whether or not the change in the co-financing requirement from 10% to 5% would potentially allow a reduction in membership fees, given that only half as much money would need to be raised to unlock the same level of grant as previously. For those smaller parties, and those from countries where state funding of political parties isn’t a thing, the membership fee can be a challenge to find each year, and whilst it would be good to have more money to spend, some compromise would be helpful. The answer I got was a pragmatic one, but there was a suggestion that the idea might be examined once the final funding situation was confirmed.

We heard presentations from the two parties applying for full membership, and it was agreed without much dispute that both Strategy Aghmashenebeli of Georgia, and Laisvės Partija of Lithuania could be admitted. It is encouraging to see the emergence of more liberal groups across Europe, and their platforms seem very much within the mainstream of European liberalism.

A flurry of urgency resolutions arrived between my writing the preview and the deadline, and many delegates had taken part in the working group on Friday evening, attempting to tidy and, in some cases, significantly improve, them. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrat resolution on Afghanistan, one which had already been adopted by Liberal International, had to be withdrawn following successful amendments which rather damaged it in the eyes of our experts. However, Council did adopt resolutions on;

  • a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics
  • the humanitarian crisis on the Poland-Belarus border
  • the imprisonment of Mikhail Saakashvili by the Georgian authorities
  • illegitimate surveillance of EU citizens
  • the certification of Nordstream 2
  • Nicaragua
  • the Russian threat against Ukraine
  • democracy in Russia following the recent elections

The discussion on the future of the Individual Members scheme ended up being a defence of the concept by their representatives, but with little support from the representatives of the member parties. I expressed my concerns regarding how, or even if, you could run a membership system as a “bolt-on” to an organisation comprising of member parties, and noted the potential reputational risk that a broadly unsupervised group could bring to the ALDE Party and its member parties.

And, finally, there was an update on the progress of the Conference on the Future of Europe, where David Chalmers, the Chair of the Liberal Democrat European Group, spoke about the significant engagement that LDEG had organised, something which was noted positively by ALDE Party Co-President Ilhan Kyuchyuk.

Hybrid events are a complex beast, and require an acute awareness in, effectively, multiple dimensions. And, whilst there were some issues in terms of properly including the remote delegates, we got there in the end. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to gather in Dublin over the first weekend in June, for the postponed Congress, where there’ll be the drama of elections to the Bureau, including for a new President. It would be fair to say that there are early signs of a real contest…

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

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