Author Archives: Sean O'Curneen

Introducing “Letter from Brussels”

Letter from Brussels is a 15-minute podcast that will help Lib Dem local councillors, activists, and supporters stay in touch with what is happening in the European Union from the perspective of local authorities. It is produced by the liberal “Renew Europe Group” in the European Committee of the Regions, the EU’s assembly of municipalities and regions, and is written and narrated by Sean O’Curneen, Secretary General of the Group, and a former BBC journalist.

Every episode starts with a fascinating story about the city of Brussels, the capital of the Union, and is followed by the latest news, opinions, and proposals, by leaders who are making the Union a reality on the ground, in their local communities, be it in decarbonising the economy, or integrating migrants and refugees, developing rural communities, or creating new opportunities for young people.

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Opinion: Threat to Europe? Countering the TTIP scaremongering

It was with a certain degree of shock that on Thursday 2 April, I read the opinion article “We should be alert to this threat to Europe!“. How was it possible that the concerns expressed in it about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – which echo what many segments of Europe’s radical left have been peddling – could be given credibility from within one of Europe’s most influential liberal parties? After some consideration, I concluded that clearly the anti-TTIP propaganda war is proving to be very successful and that there is still much work to do to counter those arguments.

Here are a number of facts that all Liberal Democrats should be aware of and should readily share whenever the subject arises, regarding in particular transparency, public services, and democratic rights of public authorities:


The media and the public rarely show much interest in highly technical trade negotiations. Clearly, however, times have changed. The EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, a Swedish liberal and one of the most respected politicians in Brussels has recognised that there is a public demand for greater openness. Since taking office in November 2014, she has taken steps to address this demand, such that only weeks later, on 29 January 2015, the spokersperson on TTIP for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, congratulated Commissioner Malmström for “taking the concerns of citizens seriously” after it was announced that transparency rules would apply to the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). Furthermore, only a few days ago, on 23 March 2015 the European Ombudsman commended the European Commission for the progress made.

Public Services

On 20 March 2015, Commissioner Malmström and the US Trade Representative, published a Joint Statement on Public Services. Anyone concerned about the NHS, environmental policies, public procurement, or the democratic freedoms of public authorities in Europe, should read it. Here’s an extract:

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Opinion: Britain is the mother of parliamentary democracy, yet on Friday its Prime Minister voted against it

cameron-europeFor political historians, the 27 June 2014 may go down in history as the day a British Prime Minister voted against parliamentary democracy. For that is what the Juncker nomination was really all about, and which many commentators in the UK fail to understand. Comments such as “two-faced EU leaders”, “Europeans fed up with the UK”, etc, as read in several articles this weekend, reveal a lack of understanding of the process that has been building up in the EU in the past two years.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 139 Comments

Will Lib Dem councillors miss out on this year’s LeaDeRs Awards?

The deadline for submitting nominations for the Local and Regional Liberal Politicians Awards, LeaDeRs, organised by the ALDE Group in the EU’s Committee of the Regions has been extended until 10 October, to allow members of those parties in Europe (such as the Lib Dems) who have been tied up with party conferences, or in other cases, election campaigns.

Open to Liberal Democrats from across Europe, nominations have so far been received for work carried out by local councillors from Germany, Italy, Ireland, Hungary, Estonia, and Latvia. Others from France and Spain are on their way.

Previous winners include Paul Scriven, …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

The LeaDeRs Awards 2013 have been launched!

The ALDE Group in the EU’s Committee of the Regions has launched the third edition of the awards for key liberal democrat players at the level of subnational governments (regional and local). Open to liberal democrats from across Europe, previous winners include Paul Scriven, Leader of Sheffield City Council (2008-2011) for Achievement in Government at Local Level, awarded in 2010. This year’s awards ceremony will be held on 4 December in Brussels.

Both the national board of ALDE member parties as well as their local party branches can submit nominations of persons who are considered to be suitable candidates for such …

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Lord Tope tackles goldplating EU laws

“Goldplating” – the practice whereby national governments add on extra regulation to the law emanating from the EU – is what often leads citizens to believe that the European Union “over-regulates”. Whilst there may be cases of such excessive regulation from Union bodies, such as the recent proposal to ban certain types of olive oil jugs, which has been thankfully withdrawn, the fact is that much of the over-regulation happens when the European law is being processed at national level. Unfortunately, Westminster has not been immune to the “goldplating bug.” 

For this reason, Lord Tope, member of the EU’s assembly of …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Opinion: 21st Century Britain will need the European Union

Britain’s fraught relationship with the EU is perfectly rational. Think of it this way:

– if I have a problem and you solve it for me, I will like you;

– if you create a problem for me, I will not like you;

– if you solve a problem that I don’t have, I might like you, but I don’t need you.

This is exactly what lies at the heart of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Let’s consider what problems the EU solves:

  1. All nation states need to trade their goods. Membership of the EU provides access to the Single Market, the largest market in

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Martin Gray
    Simple Mick ...You as a British citizen are not allowed to vote in Greece's national elections. Unless that right is reciprocated why would should any Greek n...
  • Mick Taylor
    EU citizens, like me, can vote in local and EU elections in an EU country where they reside, but many are also registered in the UK, where they can vote in all ...
  • David Raw
    @ Gordon. I’m afraid you are very much mistaken if you believe the British government did not confiscate German assets in WW11....
  • Gordon
    “But confiscating Russian assets… would also break international law.” Exactly so. It breaks international law because it’s theft. Hence,...
  • Martin Gray
    Are those rights reciprocated across the EU .. In national elections I think not ... Only UK citizens should have the right to vote in national elections....