ELDR Congress: that’s another fine Mezzogiorno, they’ve gotten us into…

Liberals from across Europe and, according to one vocal member of our delegation, beyond, gathered last week in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, under rather tighter security than usual, to discuss the gathering Euro crisis and the future of the European Union budget. As Liberal Democrats, we’ve grown used to meeting with rather depressing levels of security but, for a change, this wasn’t intended for us. Our hosts, Italia dei Valori, included the former Mayor of Palermo and current ELDR Vice-President, Leoluca Orlando, whose anti-mafia campaigning probably still makes him a potential target.

The theme for the Congress was the 2014-2020 EU budget, and there was a range of approaches, from the Committee of the Regions, who felt that funds should be made available to allow them to deal with their already declared priorities, to LYMEC, ELDR’s youth wing, who called for the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy, amongst other things. However, mainstream thought pointed towards freezing the budget, at least in real terms, with the focus of the debate being ‘European added value’, i.e. ways of spending money that might be more effective at European level than at national level, reducing the overall spend. Smarter, rather than bigger, perhaps.

Meanwhile, the annual drama that is the election of new Bureau members was under way, with one Presidential and six Vice-Presidential candidates pressing the flesh in pursuit of votes. As the largest delegation, with nearly 20% of the electorate, we were being actively courted, especially for the four Vice Presidential vacancies, as we were not fielding a candidate of our own.

ELDR has a uniquely dreadful system for its elections, requiring voters to cast as many votes as there are vacancies, whether or not you like enough of them to want to do so. It combines first past the post with an element of mandation, something that probably needs reviewing at some point. But when the dust settled, and the music stopped, a Finn (Swedish-speaking), an Italian, a German, a Catalan and the Dutch candidate were smiling Vice-Presidents, and the Estonian went home empty-handed.

You’ll note that there were five winners, as the Presidency remained uncontested, leaving Graham Watson to win with a veritably North Korean 96.4% of the vote. I am led to understand that the remaining 3.6% had either lost their polling cards or were trapped in meetings… His success created an additional vacancy for a Vice-President (he was elected to that position in Helsinki last year), so four became five.

So, if I were to sum up the mood in Palermo, it would be one of realism. Times are tough, prudence is in favour, and liberals are thinking about being smart, not extravagant.

Next year’s theme will be about energy sustainability, and the Congress will take place in Dublin, with Fianna Fail as our hosts. If you’re interested in being involved, contact the Party’s International Office and ask to be added to the mailing list.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Europe / International.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Peter Martin
    @ Steve, "Might it help.if our party were to assertively oppose Neoliberal socio-economics...." Of course it would. It's unlikely any establishm...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Graham Jeffs - I don't know where you live but people in our target seats, and some others, will have a very clear idea of what we stand for by now. At constit...
  • Graham Jeffs
    If only the public knew what we stand for other than a list of policy promises! We still lack definition. Not being the Conservatives isn't enough. We need to b...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might it help.if our party were to assertively oppose Neoliberal socio-economics, which is a root cause of the problems outlined above, and commit to taxation r...
  • Mary Fulton
    I have been involved in working with families which suffer from poverty and other issues for most of my professional lives and what I find most concerning is th...