@ALDEParty Congress: writing a manifesto for Europe

So, a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest, but possibly with better tunes, liberals from as far afield as Armenia and Catalonia, Finland and Cyprus are gathered to debate the draft manifesto.

The draft is founded on four key themes;

  • creating jobs and opportunities – free trade agreements, stimulating SMEs and e-commerce
  • setting new priorities – redirecting spending towards increasing jobs and improving lives, cutting administrative budgets and the Common Agricultural Policy, and ensuring healthy public finances
  • stronger in the world and safer at home – a common asylum and refugee policy, strengthening EU agencies and cooperation to fight organised crime, pooling and sharing of military resources
  • an effective and transparent Europe – laws to be made at the appropriate regional, national or EU level, improving accountability for European politicians

A manifesto debate at ALDE is interesting, in that much of the horse-trading is done in advance by small groups, with fine-tuning taking place in a three-hour session tasked with considering 197 mostly technical amendments. And yes, it does work. For the Liberal Democrats, Martin Horwood has done sterling work in ensuring that the draft fits with our sensitivities.

We’ll be covering the manifesto in more detail when it is finalised…

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11 Comments

  • Richard Dean 29th Nov '13 - 5:48pm

    I would like to politely suggest (and if I offend then please accept my sincerest apologies in advance) that there is one great big pink elephant that these themes have missed. Or perhaps two.

    The great big pink elephant answers to the name of Sovereignty. She has a companion called Immigration. Sovereignty and Immigration together are voracious eaters, they can consume almost everything else, they are not even afraid of the little mouse called Common Sense, who lives in a burrow. Sovereignty and Immigration have sisters in all the major countries of Europe, including Germany, France, and Spain, and also in most smaller ones.

    I would not like to offend anyone’s senses by describing what comes out of the back ends of Sovereignty and Immigration – suffice it to say that it makes life in a burrow a real misery.

    I do feel, however, that the draft manifesto should address the issue of how to handle these large beings.

  • Some things I would like to see:

    1) Effective tax regimes for multinational corporations. At present corporates can and do engage in a race to the bottom utilising techniques such as transfer pricing and the loopholes strewn around the tax landscape by their friends in government who believe that must pander to the multinationals who will otherwise pack their bags and leave. Nonsense! The EU is quite big enough to impose what I call a “pay to play” approach whereby if a multinational wants to trade in Europe it must abide by EU rules. It is exactly in such things that we, the people, should be benefiting from the economies of scale that the EU enjoys. If a company doesn’t want to play by the rules it can get out. This would go a long way towards creating a level playing field for smaller companies that don’t have the same scope for tax avoidance and also towards plugging the holes in government finances. This is of course exactly what China does and it works just fine for them – it doesn’t stop companies queuing up to establish a presence there and China is a smaller market.

    2) The rule of law for bankers. I know it’s become a bit radical in recent years to suggest that bankers should obey the law of the land and that it’s not been required by recent administrations in either the Eurozone or this country leading to some very bad practices (and that’s an understatement!) but really they should. As Keynes said: “When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done”. He was right of course and we are whistling in the wind if we think there will be any well-founded economic recovery until this is sorted. I’m mystified as to why anyone would think otherwise; it’s long been understood that a high level of trust is central to a dynamic economy so allowing banks repeatedly to get away with schemes designed to abuse and rip-off their customers is hardly likely to work. (NB It’s a case of if the cap fits, so I’m not damming ALL bankers here but the scale of law-breaking by some is epic).

    3) No “investor-state” dispute resolution system in the proposed free trade agreements. This is an outrageous system to by-pass any form of regulation on footloose international capital and corporations and appears to be the main purpose of these supposedly ‘free trade’ agreements since even their sponsors admit that trade between the EU and US is pretty free as conventionally understood.

    4) Finally I would like to see some serious steps to guarantee civil liberties. Democratic governments have no business spying on their citizens without a warrant. Can we get back to basics here please?

  • Peter Hayes 29th Nov '13 - 7:03pm

    GF the EU are already looking at the tax loopholes used by multi nationals. Wonder how the coalition will respond.

    http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/frontpage/2013/13_132_en.htm

  • Paul in Twickenham 29th Nov '13 - 7:21pm

    The first tranche of tickets for next year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Denmark went on sale at 10AM CET this morning, using a clever queueing system that was (as you would expect from the Danes) extremely fair. Tickets for the final were sold out in minutes. Will ALDE be likely to experience equal demand for the fruits of their labours? No, I don’t think so either..

  • Which political parties are going to campaign against “creating jobs & opportunities”?

    I know of none, so the danger with this exercise is it there is no good reason to actively support (vote for) anyone running on such a platform. To change that perception and to create reasons for voters to vote for (and yes against) you, there needs to be something there that the other parties won’t support.

    I would suggest advocating the completion of the Schengen area to cover ALL EU & EFTA member states (UK included) and simultaneously to advocate stepping up the Schengen area’s external borders to reduce illegal immigration into the EU (and EFTA) member states. That provides voters with a potential solution that differs from the current views being expressed by the Conservatives & UKIP.

    Sure, you won’t get UKIP votesr backing you but were they going to anyway?

    PS lest anyone query the ALL member states comment, the only EU (or EFTA) states who are not either members or in the process of joining are the UK & Ireland and as both already operate a mini-Schengen style agreement between them, neither can claim to fundamentally object to Schengen style arrangements.

  • jedibeeftrix 30th Nov '13 - 10:01am

    “The great big pink elephant answers to the name of Sovereignty.”

    I would like to echo Richard’s call for ALDE to address this, in particular:

    1. Does ALDE recognise that it is a legitimate aim for a nation to choose the level of EU integration it desires. i.e. ever-closer-union is not [the] moral choice available to EU members.
    2. Does ALDE recognise that eurozone integration risks marginalising less integrated EU nations from decision making. i.e. QMV caucusing resulting from an ECB ‘managed’ consensus.
    3. Will ALDE therefore seek to ensure that the common market is kept as an explicit competence of the EU, and not subject to the whims of the eurozone. i.e. as with financial transaction taxes.
    4. Does ALDE accept this is not merely necessary to appease an awkward UK, it provides the freedom for all EU nations to choose their own destiny. i.e. small nations not left with no other choice.

    Britain is not going to be in the core of european integration, in any useful political horizon, so is ALDE interested in creating a post-sovereign EU that still has room for sovereign nation-states?

    If they aren’t, and others aren’t either, then we really will be out.

  • jedibeeftrix 30th Nov '13 - 10:06am

    @ PaulR –

    “I would suggest advocating the completion of the Schengen area to cover ALL EU & EFTA member states (UK included) and simultaneously to advocate stepping up the Schengen area’s external borders to reduce illegal immigration into the EU (and EFTA) member states.”

    That really means the Lib-Dem’s going into the 2015 general election advocating entry in Schengen. I can’t begin to imagine how keen the lib-dem election planning team will be on including that in the manifesto.

    “the UK & Ireland and as both already operate a mini-Schengen style agreement between them, neither can claim to fundamentally object to Schengen style arrangements.”

    Indeed not, it is just a matter of who you choose to associate with. I get the impression that a lot of the electorate might disagree with you on saying; “why the hell not, there is no important difference between ireland and the rest of europe”

  • Richard Dean 30th Nov '13 - 3:04pm

    I think the pink elephants are mainly made of what comes out of their rear ends.

    If we withdraw from Europe, we will soon be isolated neighbours to a rather large, political and economic powerhouse that will dwarf us in raw material production, manufacturing, and services of all kinds. That powerhouse will, in a couple of decades, have sorted out all the problems about distinctions between what are national decisions and what are group decisions. It will have sorted out the problem of fiscal transfers.

    By withdrawing from this, we will have created a new Bronze Curtain down the centre of the North Sea and Channel. We will become the East Germany that eventually needs rescuing by its more successful neighbour. We will lose far more control of our destiny than we ever thought we gained from withdrawing.

    For these and other reasons, I suggest that our only rational choice is, indeed, to be “at the heart of European integration”, and to be there in as short a political horizon as possible. All this stuff about “a post-sovereign EU that still has room” is just so much hot air, from the wrong ends of those elephants.

    As a political party, we need to fight for what is right, not run from what the prophets of doom suggest will be electoral defeat.

  • Richard Dean 30th Nov '13 - 6:11pm

    I know that the Great British Electorate may have fazes and fads, but is basically a very sensible body of people, and will ultimately make the correct choice. So fighting for what is right will actually end up giving us electoral success.

  • Richard Dean 30th Nov '13 - 6:12pm

    (I imagine the party leadership know it too, they’re just going through a phase at the moment)

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