Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

Kurds, Turks, Syria and hypocrisy

I’ll begin by making two things clear. The first is that Trump’s sudden decision to pull US troops out of eastern Syria is self-evidently irresponsible and very foolish. The other is that Turkey’s invasion will cause yet further civilian suffering and I suspect it will ultimately solve nothing. But now I’ve made these two admissions, I want to share some uncomfortable thoughts about the way this new conflict taking place within the borders of Syria is being perceived.

While Turkey’s invasion has hit the headlines, the regime bombing of Idlib and attacks on the ground receive almost no attention by comparison, …

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Renew Europe sets criteria for Commissioner hearings

Ahead of the hearings of the Commissioner Designates, the Renew Europe Group, of which Liberal Democrat MEPs are a part, has outlined a common approach to be followed in order to guarantee a fair, transparent and objective evaluation process.

The hearings are a vital process to ensure that the future College will be in the position to deliver on the commitment made by President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, before the Parliament and reflected in the mission letters given to each Commissioner.

Dacian Cioloș, President of Renew Europe Group, speaking in Strasbourg said:

We will analyse the future Commissioners on

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Liberal Democrats should vigorously oppose a UK war with Iran

The UK representative in the Iranian Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear weapons negotiations, Sir Simon Gaas, now Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Chair, has often talked about US political perceptions. Sir Simon Gaas explained how shocked he was when it seemed some US politicians thought Iran was a desert country consisting entirely of mad Mullahs running around with Kalashnikovs.

There is such a vast and sophisticated pro-war propaganda machine against Iran that the bare facts of Iran’s alleged drive towards nuclear weapons can be lost beneath the layers.

Brutal to its people though the regime might be, if domestic brutality be …

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Guy Verhofstadt talks Brexit some more…

This speech was given by Guy Verhofstadt MEP was delivered on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg:

The British Parliament may be shut down, we are clearly showing today the European Parliament is not.

Eurosceptics like bashing Europe by saying that the European union is undemocratic. And they repeated that today. Well, Juncker or Tusk can do a lot but at least they cannot close the doors of this House. So, if the Eurosceptics here want to look again for a ridiculous comparison with the Soviet Union (as they often do), from now on they can point their finger to Westminster

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Closing the Citizenship gaps

Britons everywhere should share the same rights.

The government treats British citizens differently depending on where they live. It does so for convenience and cost management and that isn’t fair.

For example, most of our working lives we contribute to the state pension via National Insurance. If you live in the UK when you retire or one of the 48 countries that currently have an agreement in place you’ll receive your state pension in full along with an annual uplift to help it keep pace with inflation. If you live in one of the other countries during retirement – including Australia, New …

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Liberalism Down Under

Australians recently went to the polls and elected a Liberal government. Unfortunately, Down Under the Liberal Party is a conservative body firmly fixed on the centre right of Aussie politics who with their allies the Nationals (previously known as the Country Party) have been in power for the majority of the country’s history. If it isn’t them in office, it’s Labor.

So what is the current state of our particular brand of liberalism in this part of the Commonwealth? Australia uses AV for the lower houses of its Federal and State parliaments while Upper Houses or Senates use STV, and the …

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July meeting of Liberal International in London

You might have been so be-dazzled by the London Pride parade back in July that you missed the 202nd Liberal International Executive Committee meeting which took place on the same day at the National Liberal Club (and which incidentally gave perfect grandstand viewing of the parade in the streets below) .

I’ve only recently started going to these international political meetings (since I retired and now have the time!) but the dynamic is quite different from UK political meetings and very energising. There are many younger participants and many, many more women to offset the usual pale, older males, and where else could I sit next to the Foreign Minister of Somalia? -and very interesting he was too.

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The Truth about Europe

I had the opportunity to visit the EU Parliament in Brussels last week with a group of PPCs. We were hosted by Sir Graham Watson, former Lib Dem MEP (1994-2014), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Our group heard informative talks by the EU Commission’s Director General of Trade, by the Senior Advisor to Renew Europe (former ALDE) and by the Research Director from the European Policy Centre, amongst others.

Representing a constituency which voted Leave in the EU Referendum, I thought it would be useful to post some of the information sources on the workings of the EU. So much of the 2016 Referendum was shrouded in hearsay and untruths, here are the facts.

There is a great resource online, “What the EU does for me” which has information on EU projects in your area, briefings on EU policies, and a large section on how the EU affects various aspects of daily life. This website is a great place to start.

An issue which came up several times in our discussions was how to combat fake news. There are several websites which tackle the myriad untruths:

And here is a download of the June 2019 report on the EU’s action to fight fake news.

The ‘EU Citizenship Portal’ contains information about people’s rights and how to get involved in EU policy making. The ‘Have Your Say’ portal on the Europa website is for citizens and stakeholders to send their concerns and interests directly to policy-makers and decision makers.

European Citizens’ Initiatives (petitions) allow citizens to initiate legislation themselves, such as was the case with the Right2Water citizens’ initiative. The European Commission responds to all citizen correspondence it receives, in the language of the citizen contacting them.

We all know that in campaigning, emotional appeal works better than facts and figures. So for stories on how the EU makes a difference in people’s lives, check out the #EUandME campaign which includes short films highlighting European values and experiences.

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Freedom Across Borders

Since April this year, Russian and Syrian aircraft have bombed over twenty-five hospitals inside the Idlib ‘Deconfliction’ Zone in northwest Syria, prompting hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom have already been internally displaced, to flee once again. The UN watches helplessly as most of the rest of the world turns its back on the country, uncomfortably grateful that this ongoing horror story rarely makes headlines any more.

Even now, Syrian civil society activists struggle on, attempting to provide basic health and rescue services and to resist the brutality of both the regime and its allies and the …

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Protesting the Hong Kong Extradition Bill – the story so far…

A million Hong Kong citizens went on a peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong on 12th June 2019 protesting against the government’s proposed Extradition Bill. Not only did the government refuse the demands of the demonstrators to retract the Bill, but they also described the movement as a “riot”. The police used heavy handed tactics to disperse the crowds including deployment of tear gas and pepper water spray, cornering and beating up protesters with police clubs and the making of arrests.

The government’s tactics infuriated those citizens who had not joined the demonstration, including those residing in overseas. The death of a …

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The British Government must leave the Chagos Islands

The little known story of the Chagos Islanders is one of the worst crimes in recent British history.

The Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, were first settled by the French in the eighteenth century, originally with slave labour to work on coconut plantations. They were governed by France from Mauritius. Mauritius became a British colony at the end of the Napoleonic wars, along with its distant Chagos Islands dependency a thousand miles further east.

By the 1960s, when Mauritius was approaching independence, there were about 2000 Chagos …

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From Catherine Bearder MEP, Leader of the Lib Dem Group at the European Parliament

Wow! What a few days it has been. I wanted to write you a little message from Brussels about the incredible European election last Thursday and how we can build on from our stellar result.

First of all can I just say a huge, huge thank you to all of you. In just three weeks, our activists put in a marathon effort to deliver millions of leaflets, bang in ‘Stop Brexit’ and ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ stakeboards and knock on thousands of doors (and this was on the back of an enormous effort to get all those wonderful councillors elected!).

Now we are sixteen MEPs and I finally have some colleagues with me to fly the Lib Dem flag in Brussels and Strasbourg! There are some past MEPs coming back into our midst like Chris Davies, Phil Bennion and Bill Newton-Dunn, but there also some rising stars in the party like Irina Von Wiese, Antony Hook and Caroline Voaden and so many others who come with a whole range of skills and life experiences. It is truly a great and diverse team – over 50% are women and two MEPs are BAME.

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European Elections 2019: results from across the sea… (part 2)

For earlier results, check out part 1…

First, an update. The BBC have got the Latvian result wrong, and our sister Party, Attistibai, have retained their seat. Unexpected that, the BBC getting it wrong…

Time to look at some of the bigger stories, and we start with Romania, where the USR have gained eight seats as the main element of the Coalition Alliance 2020. The collapse of the ruling Social Democrats has been followed almost immediately by the news that the Prime Minister, Liviu Dragnea, has lost his appeal against a prison sentence for corruption. He’s already been transferred into captivity…

In France, …

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European Elections 2019: results from across the sea… (part 1)

Overnight, we’ve had some of the results come in, and we’ll start with the bad news first, with none of our ALDE sister parties gaining seats in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Malta or Portugal. We had only held seats in Portugal (two), but the combined vote of the three liberal parties totalled just 2.41%.

Little change in the Baltics thus far, although in Estonia, the opposition Reform Party gained voting share and won overall, retaining their two seats, whilst the Centre Party lost significant voting share having gone into coalition with the far-right and nationalists. They retained their solitary seat in …

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European Elections 2019: Scotland and Northern Ireland declare, and the inquests begin…

19.39 And it’s really all over, with Naomi Long successfully elected…

It’s a truly historic day in Northern Irish politics, and congratulations to everyone in the Alliance Party for a quite astonishing advance.

Thanks to everyone who has commented here, and that brings our coverage of the European Parliamentary elections to a close…

18.44 STV can be quite dramatic sometimes, with candidates seemingly dead and buried, coming back to snatch victory. It hasn’t been like that here, as Naomi Long has gradually pulled away to make it certain victory. Here’s the result at the end of the fourth count…

What this means is that, …

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European Elections 2019: meanwhile, on a continent far away…

Welcome to Liberal Democrat Voice’s coverage of the results from the other 678 seats in the European Parliament. I’m your host, Mark Valladares, a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee, and I’ll be highlighting some of the interesting results from across Europe. Stay tuned for the drama to come… I’ll be adding to the piece at the top, i.e. read upwards from the bottom…

01.00 We’re still awaiting final results from across most of Europe, given that they mostly voted today. But we can summarise thus. It’s been a good night for liberals, Greens and, unfortunately, the disruptive right. …

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A Photographic Salute to the Lib Dem Resurrection

I am sending our best wishes from D66 and The Netherlands for the European Elections tomorrow. Here are some pictures from our own European election campaign.

This first picture is a group of big letters “WEUROPE” (pronounce “We Europe”). D66 activists travel around big cities with these letters, to point out that we are the most pro-European Dutch party. The people behind the letters are D66 MP’s and activists.

The second picture is me standing in front of those letters, holding up the famous phrase from the Preamble to the LibDem Constitution.

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

The pair are meant as a salute from D66 to your resurrection struggle, as two comrades in arms in the same pro-EU struggle, embracing the same Social Liberal principles. Good luck!

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What European liberals have done over the past five years – EU budget and defence

Having taken a day off, I’m back with more ALDE achievements…

Reform of the European Union’s system of own resources

ALDE has sought to increase the transparency of the current financing system of the EU budget, in order to reduce national contributions by EU Member States, by introducing new own resources income streams and ending rebates and corrections, without increasing tax burden on the citizens.

Following the Parliament’s position and the recommendations of the High Level Group on Own Resources, the Commission proposed a basket of new own resources, structured around European public goods linked to EU’s strategic policy objectives. This basket thus includes new resources based on the EU Emission Trading System and on plastic waste, reinforcing the climate action priority, and a simplified VAT based resource as well as new corporate tax-based resource, consolidating the Single Market and reducing financial speculation.

A greener, modernised and more flexible EU budget

ALDE were successful in focusing the 2019 EU budget on resources for research, innovation, competitiveness and SMEs. ALDE initiated the Parliament’s call for doubling the budget of Erasmus+ to enhance opportunities for young people, which was an instrumental step in obtaining a substantial partial increase in the 2019 budget. ALDE also pushed for substantial allocation to climate spending to meet the EU’s long-term climate goals of 20% climate spending target in the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020. Specifically, ALDE increased the ambition for EU-funded cross-border projects in the field of renewable energy within the MFF Connecting Europe Facility. Our Group made a distinctive contribution especially in the areas of internal security and investment in managing borders, fighting terrorism, radicalisation and organised crime and called on Member States to take responsibility for the management of migration in accordance with the principle of burden-sharing and the Geneva Conventions. On the initiative of our shadow rapporteur, the relevant Parliament’s budgetary reports call on the Commission to present a proposal, which would provide for the expression of financial solidarity at EU level to victims of acts of terrorism and their families.

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What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – consumer protection

Ensuring that consumers are protected is at the heart of the Single Market, and ALDE have played a central role in building upon it during the last Parliament.

Roaming Charges consigned to the history books

ALDE played a key role in ending wholesale roaming charges in the European Union. Legislation adopted in 2015 provided for the abolition of retail roaming charges on voice calls, data and SMS as of 15 June 2017, a victory for mobility and consumer rights.

Safer food for EU consumers

ALDE has supported efforts to harmonise the EU’s legal framework for official hygiene controls. We also strongly supported new laws, …

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What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – the environment (part 2)

Environmental protection is one of those fields where international collaboration is key, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see so much being done at a European level…

Tackling single use plastics

ALDE successfully steered legislation through the European Parliament to limit the negative effects of single-use plastics, in particular marine litter. Single-use plastic products for which alternatives are readily available, such as cutlery, cotton bud sticks, plates, straws and beverage stirrers, will be banned from the EU market from 2021 so that they can be replaced by more sustainable alternatives. The consumption of several other items, for which no …

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What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – the environment (part 1)

You would expect liberals to take a key role in fighting climate change and protecting our environment, and here are some of the highlights in that field…

Climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement

ALDE was a driving force in strengthening the system for national greenhouse gas emission reductions to meet the EU’s target under the Paris Agreement. ALDE steered the legislation that determines the binding national 2030 climate targets through Parliament and introduced changes to make sure that the Member States’ annual emissions ceilings are set in a way that does not overshoot the EU’s ‘carbon …

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What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – the economy

Given how little coverage there has been in the British media of the work of the European Parliament, it comes as no surprise that few voters know what it does. Luckily, the ALDE Group in the Parliament have produced a guide to their achievements since the last European election in 2014, and I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight some of them today.

More stable financial markets

Scandals around the manipulation of the LIBOR and foreign exchange benchmarks, as well as the alleged manipulation of other indices, has highlighted the importance of benchmarks and their vulnerabilities. ALDE led negotiations …

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8 May 2019 – today’s press releases (or not, as the case may be)

Given that this column has been somewhat erratic of late, there was a danger that you might have thought, “Ah, Mark’s forgotten to do this again.”. But I haven’t. I understand that the Press Team have been pretty busy today, but that hasn’t manifested itself in a press release.

However, we do have one story that might be of interest to you given what’s coming up…

The ALDE Party has rather subverted the contest to be the President of the European Commission, the so-called Spitzenkandidate process, by announcing a team of prominent European liberals, rather than just one person, to lead the …

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Let’s look more towards European Liberals for the future of the Liberal Democrats

In our fight for an Exit from Brexit, British liberals have been denied the opportunity to fight for a renewed and more liberal Europe. Since the Brexit Referendum, the raison d’être for British liberals has been to remain in the European Union. We have been pulling out all the stops to avoid a hard-Brexit, maintaining and improving the security, prosperity and opportunities brought by our membership of the world’s single market and customs union. But Europe is the future, and it is European Liberals who will be the real change makers of the next European mandate. Let’s look to European …

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What’s going on in Andalusia

Andalusia is to the PSOE as Scotland was to the Labour Party: an area where they could take people’s votes for granted to help them waltz into power at the national level. The recent elections, brought forward from March, meant they could use the region as a litmus test for future national elections and seek to take advantage of Pedro Sánchez’s honeymoon period after the vote of no confidence in July.

The PSOE has governed Andalusia since 1980. Many Lib Dems in Labour and Tory fiefdoms will be well aware of what that length of time in power does to a party, and there have been ongoing corruption cases. This resulted in Ciudadanos breaking their agreement with the PSOE, as sufficient advances had not been made on rebuilding people’s confidence in Andalusian democracy. At the time of the last elections in 2015, the PSOE got 47 seats and Ciudadanos 9, with the majority being 55.

Which brings us, more or less, to where we are at the moment, with a spectacular increase in seats for Ciudadanos from 9 to 21. Numerically, the PSOE remains the largest party, but it’s resoundingly clear that it’s time for a change in Andalusia. Despite Susana Díaz’s scaremongering about the right-wing bogeyman coming to destroy the region, and Podemos’s attempts to classify the entire centre-right as being ideologically identical to fascism, Ciudadanos’s candidate Juan Marín ruled out any kind of pact with Vox. This is because, clearly, the kind of Macron-style European liberalism Ciudadanos leads on in ALDE is the polar opposite of Abascal and Le Pen’s politics.

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Brexit – so what happens now?

Being your Day Editor today is a bit like trying to hit a rapidly moving, erratically directed small object… with a crossbow. So, where are we?

  • Theresa May intends to postpone the meaningful vote
  • There will be a Statement to the House of Commons from Theresa May at 3.30 p.m.
  • The European Court of Justice has ruled that the United Kingdom can unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 letter
  • The House of Lords is still scheduled to wind up its Brexit debate this evening with a symbolic vote

But is it as simple as that. One Tory MP thinks not;

The next steps aren’t obvious – a …

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European Liberals adopt 2019 manifesto, express regret over Brexit

Liberals from across Europe gathered in Madrid this week to debate and fine tune a document designed to be the focus for liberal campaigning in the run-up to next year’s European Parliamentary elections.

The document is divided into key themes as follows;

  • For a united Europe ready for the future
  • A Europe of innovation and opportunities for all
  • Opportunities and innovation through small and medium-sized enterprise and free trade
  • Digital innovation that benefits and unites us
  • A Europe that leads on the global stage
  • A responsible Europe that works better for you
  • Making every Euro count: investing wisely

It is a document which is ambitious for a liberal Europe, …

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ALDE Party expel Catalan member party

At an Extraordinary Council Meeting, held in Brussels, the ALDE Party announced the expulsion of its Catalan member party, PDeCAT, issuing the following press release;

Delegates from more than one third of the ALDE Party full members convened in Brussels on 27 October 2018 for an extraordinary Council Meeting.

With a majority of 2/3 of the votes cast, the Council took the decision to expel PDeCAT (Parti Democratica, Catalonia) from ALDE Party membership, effective immediately.

This decision does not imply any position of the ALDE Party on internal Spanish political affairs.

The ALDE Party keeps its door open to any new liberal and democratic

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Enjoying Conference? Fancy another one… in Madrid?

The Federal International Relations Committee is recruiting Congress delegates for the upcoming Alliance of Liberal Democrats in Europe (ALDE) Party Congress later this year. For more information on this process, please contact us!

What? ​Delegation voting-member at the ALDE Party Congress 2018

When? ​8-10 November 2018

Where? ​Madrid, Spain

Who? Staff, parliamentarians, party members, activists, volunteers can apply

About the Congress

The 39th ALDE Party Congress, will take place from 8 to …

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Horizon Europe – a potential blow for British science and technology?

One of the more obscure (at least as far as the general public is concerned) areas of worry resulting from Brexit was British participation in Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Programme for Innovation and Research, which invested significant sums into European research and development programmes, linking researchers across the Union for that purpose. The transitional period appeared to allow British participation until its end, even if Conservative politicians seem determined to put that in doubt.

Now, the European Commission are proposing a new version, Horizon Europe, intended to take the programme forward in …

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