Mark Valladares writes: ELDR Council, Dresden 2011: it was the best of times, it was the wurst of times…

Last week, I described ELDR Council as being rather like our Federal Executive. I was wrong, but I’ll come back to that…

Having dropped Ros off at a VIP lunch, I made my way to a room in a distant and poorly signposted corner of Dresden’s shiny new Congress Centre, cunningly designed to make it virtually impossible to tell which floor you are actually on, for a delegation pre-meeting. It was agreed that there was very little in the way of controversy to be expected.

By mid-afternoon, we were all ready to go, and we took our seats on the centre-left of the hall for the report of the President. Curiously, it consisted of a list of her diary engagements, without an indication of what was discussed, making it rather hard to judge Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck’s effectiveness. That said, her term of office ends in Palermo in November, so it probably doesn’t matter as much as it otherwise might.

Next, membership issues, as member parties in Moldova and Slovakia withdrew from ELDR due to merger with a member of the conservative EPP (Alliance Moldova Noastra) and winding up (Free Forum, Slovakia). In Italy, the never ending pattern of marriage, separation and divorce of liberal parties continues, with a splinter group from the Partito Repubblicano Italiano, the Movimento Repubblicani Europei, proposing to recombine, renewing its former membership of ELDR.

Meanwhile, in Spain, Unio Mallorquina, a party based in the Balearic Islands, and mired in scandal, has reformed as Convergencia per les Illes, and it was concluded that we should see what happened in regional elections prior to making a decision on their status.

The 2010 accounts were accepted with barely any comment, a good start for Roman Jakic, the Treasurer from Slovenia – he and I were active in IFLRY at about the same time.

The discussion on the draft resolution for debate in Palermo on the 2014-20 EU budget was brief, agreeing to set up a drafting committee to start work in July. At this point, the identity of the Liberal Democrat member remains unknown, but as the issue of the United Kingdom rebate is sure to arise, whoever takes on the task will have their work cut out.

We then moved onto the urgency resolutions. The first three, addressing issues related to registration of political parties in Russia, and persecution of dissidents in Armenia and Russia, were uncontroversial enough. At this point, President Neyts-Uyttebroeck decided to leave the most controversial resolution until last, instead taking a resolution calling for a defence of the Schengen Accord. It turned out that she was wrong…

Denmark has announced that it will be carrying out more stringent customs checks on its borders, and this decision, allied to moves by France to restrict access from Italy, led to a proposal from LYMEC and D66 (Netherlands) to call on the Commission to uphold the provisions of the Schengen Accord. Venstre (Denmark), part of the ruling coalition, were understandably touchy, and in an attempt to pour oil on troubled waters, a D66 representative proposed that we ‘abolish Denmark’, which at least got a laugh, especially when a Swedish delegate noted that, if Denmark was abolished, his journey home would become rather complex. It was, however, agreed to remove references to specific countries from the resolution…

The final resolution referred to the current debt crisis enveloping Portugal, Ireland and Greece, and called for the the stepping up of efforts by European and national institutions to effectively respond to the needs of returning to a path of fiscal austerity and control of inflation marked by the targets of public deficit reduction. Nothing there to worry George Osbourne, I suggest. However, the resolution went on to call for ‘a more ambitious financial and economic policy at EU level that avoids these situations occurring again in the future’. That, I suspect, won’t be as popular at 11 Downing Street… It was, however, passed without significant opposition.

It did, nonetheless, draw out an announcement from the remaining Slovak party in ELDR, part of the ruling coalition, who committed themselves to opposing any attempt to create an economic stabilisation mechanism for the European Union. It will be interesting to see what the markets make of that, assuming of course that they notice.

Finally, after a short interval, the issues of the Arab Spring were discussed, and while the guest speaker from Egypt’s Democratic Front Party was interesting, one sensed that he is a businessman first, and a politician second.

For the full, official report of the event, click here.

As it turned out, ELDR Council turned out to be more like English Council than the Federal Executive, which in itself is not particularly encouraging. You could argue that the notion of bringing people together from across Europe for a three hour meeting is a somewhat pointless exercise, especially when the powers of the body are relatively few and insignificant. However, it does offer more opportunities for European liberals to meet and interact, and the venue was a good one. Perhaps I was just unlucky this time…

Finally, as the preview of this event was lost amidst Liberal Democrat Voice’s hosting difficulties, anyone who is interested in the 2011 Congress, scheduled to take place in Palermo, Italy on 23-25 November, please leave a comment, or get in touch with me at markv233[at]aol.com.

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