Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First published elsewhere... ELDR Congress - let's hope it isn't a lemon...

For those of you who aren't Liberal Democrats (which includes my father, although he's fairly gracious about my political affinity), here is a piece published on Liberal Democrat Voice (apologies for the lack of linkage, but I can't do that when posting by e-mail from my BlackBerry)...

It's a long way from Creeting St Peter to Palermo, which partly explains why this piece comes to you from Linate Airport in Milan. But if my eight hour journey feels arduous, it is as nothing compared to the journey back to stability that is the mission of the Eurozone's finance ministers.

In the midst of this crisis, ELDR (the European Liberal Democrats) delegates from across Europe (and I'm beginning to appreciate just how far that might be) are gathering in Sicily's capital to discuss the European Union's budget for 2014-2020. I'm here because you sent me (or at least those of you who voted for me last year - molto bene, everyone).

In fairness, what has come to pass was unimaginable at the beginning of the year, and even when the ELDR Council met in May, there was little sense of the chaos to come. However, the current financial situation is likely to take up much of our time over the coming two days and will doubtless inform our debate on what the European Union should be doing in the coming years.

It's also time to elect a new President, and as already reported here, Sir Graham Watson is currently the only candidate to replace Annemie Neyts, from Open VLD (Flanders, Belgium), and assuming that an opponent hasn't emerged by this evening, the Liberal Democrat delegation will be being heavily lobbied for its significant voting strength by the various candidates for Vice President - we represent something like 12% of the available votes, and with four candidates to be elected, that really matters.

We'll also have the usual array of weird, wonderful and frankly parochial resolutions, urging ELDR to do this or that, and some fascinating seminars. And on the subject of seminars, it should be noted that it was at the equivalent event two years ago that the long-term need for recapitalisation of European banks was highlighted, and at the Dresden Council meeting in May when the junior partner in the ruling Slovak coalition announced that they would be opposing any proposal for a stabilisation fund (damn, I could have made a fortune...).

Finally, there are rumours that ELDR could be coming to a city near you soon, and I'll report back once this is confirmed. But first, we may be going somewhere that, when I first heard the news, made me exclaim, "How the hell do you get there?". It's not all glamour, this Euro stuff...

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