ALDE Party Council, Vilnius 2024 (part 1) – greetings from a galaxy not far away…

Readers, please note that this is not an official report of the Council meeting last weekend, but represents my report back.

One of the things that I observed from my two years as consort to the Party President was that, if you’re chairing a potentially fractious group, especially a political one, it really helps to be able to spot potential disagreements beforehand, allowing you to have those critical conversations prior to the meeting, and to consider how best to manage the debate.

The ALDE Party isn’t entirely like that, as was demonstrated on Saturday morning.

But, having gathered in Lithuania’s charming capital, we did have more than a Council meeting to attend. My weekend started with a session sponsored by the European Liberal Forum, discussing what a liberal narrative for the next five years might look like, including our own Sal Brinton. Sal talked about our current campaign, noting that it had liberal values at its heart, offering concrete proposals to improve our public services and the environment.

There were some fascinating interventions from the two Lithuanian participants and, especially from the newly elected Portuguese MEP, Joao Cotrim de Figueiredo, of whom more would be heard over the weekend. But the point which particularly resonated with me came from an old friend, Jules Maaten, a former IFLRY President and VVD MEP, who now works for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, who noted that one of the features of liberals is that we often appear to be more focused on being liked, even by our enemies, than on pushing our values and our agenda. And, in fairness, Liberal Democrats can be a bit like that sometimes, although with FPTP, we might have more justification for that than our continental brethren. The phrase “muscular liberalism” comes to mind…

My suspicion is that, once things settle down in the European Parliament, and we know who has the power, the emergence of a meaningful liberal agenda may emerge, based on the recent ALDE Party statement of values which Sal so recently brought together. But it will also reflect the shifting balance of power within the ALDE Party following the annihilation of Ciudadanos, our Spanish sister party, the defection of ANO, our former Czech ally, and the somewhat unexpected emergence of Progressive Slovakia as the biggest single group within the ranks of ALDE MEPs. And, like the Portuguese, the Slovaks aren’t afraid to make their feelings known.

Probably the most emotional part of Friday’s schedule was what was described as a “Ukraine Immersive Experience”, which was formed of a film with live piano accompaniment. And this was no “touchy-feely” production, but a raw and blunt exposition of life in Ukraine under Russian assault – a reminder, if reminder were needed, of the impact of war on the people and their society. And, with the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House in less than seven months, it reinforces the need for European solidarity in the face of Russian expansionism.

All of that thinking out of the way, delegates were whisked off to what was a rather delightful reception, offering opportunities for lobbying – “are your Party running anyone in the Autumn’s Bureau elections, what will happen about member parties who deal with the populist right, and where do ALDE go in relation to the leadership of Renew Europe in the new European Parliament. But mostly, for me at least, it was a chance to catch up with old friends on a warm, sunny evening…

Tomorrow… when delegates attack…

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

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4 Comments

  • Nom de Plume 24th Jun '24 - 8:11pm

    I have been expecting ANO to leave for a while now. It will be interesting to see where they go.

  • “what will happen about member parties who deal with the populist right”

    It should be a fairly short discussion. I’d have thought you can either be in ALDE or you can be in government with Wilders. (Unless another european liberal party is going to go on a weird journey a la Haider/FPO Orban/Fidesz!)

  • Joseph Bourke 25th Jun '24 - 12:26pm

    Liberal values are not easily distinguished on a political scale of right versus left. It is rather the scale of authoritanism versus Liberaiism.
    The Presidntial elections in Lithunaia last month saw Gitanas Nauseda win a second term. The Lithianania President determines Lithuania’s basic foreign policy guidelines and is also the commander-in-chief of the Lithuanian Armed Forces,.
    The government is comprised of a coalition of centre-right neo-liberal Conservatives ALDE’s Liberal Movement https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1232763/who-s-who-in-lithuania-s-2020-parliamentary-election-explainer
    Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held by October this year.

  • Robin Stafford 26th Jun '24 - 10:46am

    Enjoy Vilnius – really interesting place. Do go to the KGB museum if you get the chance – the old KGB offices left more or less as they were, complete with torture chamber and execution cell. A reminder for those who pop up here blaming the West and NATO for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine of how Russia has brutally colonized all its neighbours over the centuries. See also this on Lithuania:

    https://maksymeristavi.substack.com/p/russian-colonialism-exposed-estonia?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=1252643&post_id=145958339&utm_campaign=email-post-title&isFreemail=true&r=qshi&triedRedirect=true&utm_medium=email

    Not surprising that those countries might want to join a defensive alliance that might stop Russia invading them again. Whilst Putin and his entourage talk openly about re-expanding the Russian empire and actively do so in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere. Depressing how for some Russian colonialism and imperialism, with the slaughter of millions in its neighbours, is just fine and someone else’s fault. I’m not sure that they would say the same about historical Western colonialism.

    They’d would perhaps be more comfortable in Farage’s Reform or Corbyn’s version of Labour.

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