Category Archives: Europe / International

Anything to do with European / international issues

Liberal International, Moroccan-style

Jonathan Fryer (right) with Hakima El Haité, President of Liberal InternationalFour of us UK Liberal Democrats were given a brief break from general election campaigning these past few days with a meeting of the Executive Committee of Liberal International (LI) in the Moroccan city of Fez. LI now has a Moroccan President, a former Minister of the Environment, Hakima El Haité, and its Secretary General, Gordon Mackay, was previously a South African MP. So although the organisation’s HQ is still located in the bowels of the National Liberal Club in London, the …

Tagged | Leave a comment

ALDE Party Congress – a first time delegate’s thoughts

In the shadow of the ancient Athenian acropolis where Aristotle and Socrates once lectured on ideas that would go on to change the world, Hans van Baalen, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) launched the organisations 40th congress under the banners “mission is possible” and “liberal renaissance”. His audience included delegations from 67 full and associate member parties, as well as individual members who had assembled from across the European continent.

I had applied to the International Office upon learning of the exciting opportunity to attend the ALDE party congress as a Lib Dem …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

ALDE Party Congress – the Bureau election results

The election results were announced as the final item of business for the Congress, and were as follows;

President

  • Hans van Baalen

Vice-Presidents

  • Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Bulgaria)
  • Annelou van Egmond (D’66, Netherlands)
  • Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP, Germany)
  • Daniel Berg (Momentum, Hungary)
  • Sal Brinton (Liberal Democrats, UK)
  • Timmy Dooley (Fianna Fáil, Ireland)

Congratulations to them all.

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

ALDE Party Congress – Margrethe Vestager on the opportunities and threats of the Digital Age

There was serious talk in some quarters of Margrethe Vestager as a credible compromise candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission, and whilst that didn’t come to pass, the former Commissioner for Competition, and scourge of monopolists everywhere, gained a key role in the new, incoming Commission, that of coordinating the whole agenda on a Europe fit for the digital age, whilst retaining her former responsibilities for competition.

Her speech here in Athens was an interesting one, and offers a flavour of how she sees her new portfolio…

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

ALDE Party Congress – Boris Johnson’s best friend speaks…

Even for those whose interest in, and knowledge of, European politics is limited, the identity of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg recently became rather better known after a recent intervention in the Brexit debate.

Xavier Bettel is here in Athens, and was one of the speakers at the opening of the Congress. Here’s what he had to say…

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

ALDE Party Congress – the battle for the Bureau

I noted, in passing, yesterday that there was a decent sized and quite varied field for the six vacancies as Vice Presidents of the ALDE Party.

And perhaps I need to go into more detail… so here is your guide to the “runners and riders”.

First, there is a notional election for the position of President, and I say notional because Hans van Baalen, from VVD (Netherlands), is unopposed in his quest for a third and final term in the role. He could lose, theoretically, but won’t.

Let’s start from the top of the picture, …

Also posted in News | Leave a comment

ALDE Party Congress – it’s a Marathon, not a sprint…

Welcome to, as you might have suspected from the pun in the title, Athens, where liberals, friends and allies are gathering for the 40th Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) Party. I’m here in a myriad of capacities, and I’ll be covering the event for Liberal Democrat Voice.

It’s an interesting time to be a European Liberal. Good results in the European Parliamentary election earlier this year led to a rather larger centrist group in the Parliament – I use the c-word advisedly, as ALDE MEPs have been subsumed into a larger Renew Europe group, including …

Also posted in News | Tagged | 4 Comments

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, …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

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

Also posted in News | Tagged and | Leave a comment

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 …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

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

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

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 …

Also posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

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 …

Tagged and | 10 Comments

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.

Tagged | 3 Comments

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.

Tagged , , , , , and | 47 Comments

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 …

Also posted in Events | Tagged | 3 Comments

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

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 …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 8 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 10 Comments

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, …

Also posted in News | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

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, …

Also posted in News | 15 Comments

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. …

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

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!

Tagged and | 5 Comments

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.

Also posted in News | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

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, …

Also posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | Leave a comment

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 28 Comments

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 15th Dec - 9:52am
    @Martin If you have read the many (probably too many) comments I have made on LDV over the past few years, you would realise that...
  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 15th Dec - 9:44am
    By 2024 it will not be about policies or their compatibility anymore. Much more will be at stake. Think Orban, Kaczynski, Babis, Salvini (likely back...
  • User AvatarGlenn 15th Dec - 9:39am
    Yeovil Yokel The reason Johnson won is because leaving the EU had more electoral traction than remaining in it. It's an issue that lot of...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 15th Dec - 9:36am
    Hard to believe the celebration of a best ever second place in Surrey Heath when nearby Guildford was pretty close (and with a Tory/Independent split...
  • User AvatarTom Harney 15th Dec - 9:31am
    Before we think about enforcing the law, we should deal with the problem that for most people enforcing their rights via the legal system is...
  • User AvatarCassie 15th Dec - 9:30am
    Could David or someone else going on about 'hard Remainers' tell me how anyone can be a soft Remainer? Any form of leave is leave....
Tue 7th Jan 2020