Friday, June 13, 2014

Published elsewhere: @ALDEParty Council preview - "How was it for you?"

Not all of my regular readers follow Liberal Democrat Voice, so here's an opportunity to read my piece published there earlier this morning...

It seems like mere weeks since the last Council meeting of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), when optimism was in the air - admittedly helped by the presence of our Austrian hosts on that occasion, who were running an unashamedly pro-European campaign. Sadly, just six weeks later, delegates from across Europe gather in Brussels under rather less cheery circumstances.

The decimation of the British, German and Italian member parties in the European Parliament, plus the defection of the Romanians to the European People's Party following merger with a former rival, was somewhat offset by results elsewhere, with ALDE members doing particularly well in Scandinavia and the Baltic. And, with new political parties still searching for a pan-European home, the final outcome remains uncertain.

The centrepiece of today's agenda is a review of the campaign across Europe, and the value or otherwise of the support given to member parties in the run-up to May's elections. No doubt much will be said about the possible clash between the European Parliament and the European Council over the next President of the European Commission, and about how the 'spitzenkandidat' (lead candidate) concept worked for liberals - it had no impact in the United Kingdom because barely anyone knew anything about it until afterwards.

There are other consequences from the loss of seats, in that funding for the various pan-European political parties is linked to success in winning seats in the European Parliament. Some potentially difficult decisions will need to be taken over the next few months, and some thoughts on that will doubtless be aired during the financial report by ALDE Treasurer, Roman Jakic, who is taking time off from his day job as Slovenia's Defence Minister.

It isn't all doom and gloom though, as Latvijas Attistibai (Latvia's Development Party) is seeking membership, and Council will be asked to agree that this year's Congress should take place in Lisbon in November, allowing us to meet with an emerging liberal group in Portugal, Nos Ciadados (We Citizens).

Finally, on a more reflective note, it will be interesting to see how ALDE looks going forward. In recent years, the influence of the German FDP and the Liberal Democrats has been particularly strong. Now that both have taken such an electoral beating, will ALDE see the emergence of new power bases within itself, and what philosophical impact will that have? Today might be very interesting indeed...

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