ALDE Congress in Dublin
Whilst most of you were celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee last weekend, a number of us travelled to Dublin, as part of the Lib Dem delegation to the ALDE Congress taking place from 2nd to 4th June - the first physical meeting of our liberal and democratic sister parties from across Europe since our last get together in Athens in October 2019.
As expected it was really great to be back in person meeting old friends and making new ones. The Irish did not disappoint in their hospitality - the main reception was held in the Guinness Factory - and Dublin impressed us all, as a vibrant cosmopolitan city that appears to be taking full advantage of Brexit, with many international corporations having beefed up their presence in Ireland. It was my first visit to Ireland for 20 years and I certainly noticed the change in the look and feel of the Capital.
There was much political debate over the weekend - with some inspiring speeches from Micheal Martin - the Irish Taoiseach, Kira Rudik, the Leader of our Ukrainian sister party Golos, Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Margrethe Vestager, the Danish European Commissioner for Competition, Stephane Sejourne, the Leader of the the Renew Group in the European Parliament and many others. I was reminded in just how many European countries one of sister parties is the governing party or part of a governing coalition, which highlights the growing influence and relevance of our liberal policies.
Baroness Sal Brinton was re-elected as Vice President for a second term to the ALDE Bureau, which will enable us to maintain our party's influence in our European liberal family. The other successful Vice-Presidential candidates were Annelou van Egmond (D66 Netherlands ), Svenja Hahn (FDP Germany), Kira Rudik (Golos; Ukraine) and Daniel Berg (Momentum; Hungary).
Timmy Dooley ( Fianna Fáil Ireland) and Ilhan Kyuchyuk ( Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Bulgaria) standing on a joint ticket were elected unopposed as joint Presidents of ALDE. Both Timmy and Ilhan have spoken at LDEG events in the past and are old friends of the Lib Dems.
There was a strong presence at the Congress of the French Renaissance party of President Macron ahead of talks on exploring merger possibilities between ALDE and the European Democrats. Such a merger would have clear advantages as it would put our Group much closer to the conservative EPP in size and power, but there are reservations on the possible weakening of liberalism in a merged entity. I am sure we shall see more on this topic in the coming months. LDEG and LIBG are hosting a joint online briefing on the French National Elections, which will take place on 28 June, to which all LDEG members will be invited.
Several members of LDEG's Exec, alongside myself, were part of the LibDem delegation and were involved in preparing amendments to the motions submitted, which when adopted help guide the policies of our sister parties across Europe. We were also authors of motions on Afghanistan and the Northern Ireland Protocol, the latter submitted jointly with Alliance and Fianna Fail. Additionally we cooperated in the drafting and co-signed motions with FDP Germany on World Trade and with the Green Liberals Switzerland on cooperation on research, education and innovation.
Several of the motions related to European security in the wake of the war with Ukraine. President Zelensky's Party Servant of the People was officially admitted to ALDE as a full member and in addition to the Ukrainian Liberal Party, Golos, which was already a full member of ALDE, we saw a strong display of solidarity with Ukraine at the Congress. The resolutions dealt with armaments, sanctions, refugees, and wider effects such as food security. A stand-alone motion on reducing fossil fuel dependence and ensuring energy supply also referred to overdependence on Russia, as well as focusing on the longer-term transition to renewables. There was a clear rejection of any moves which might lead to Putin continuing to occupy the territory taken since February 24th. We also confirmed support for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to be promoted to EU candidate status, a decision to be taken shortly by the EU, but accession would remain dependent upon meeting the Copenhagen Criteria.
The motions on European defence and security were not ultimately supported by our delegation, despite containing much that we agree with and having had the elements incompatible with NATO deleted by our own and Swedish amendments. ALDE have just set up a Policy Advisory Group to look at security issues in detail - I am the Lib Dem representative - which will be able to take expert advice on what is required going forward.
A comprehensive resolution on asylum policy was also passed. The proposal is to replace the Dublin system with one that shares the asylum seekers between EU member states on the basis of population and GDP, hence replacing the first country rule. It also gave clear guidelines on uniting families and using other support networks, as well as integrating refugees into the workforce. The resolution introduced the concept of climate change refugees.
Our motion on the Northern Ireland Protocol which after consultation was proposed jointly with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and Fianna Fail of Ireland, condemns the British Government's plans to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol ( a Lib Dem press release on this matter has already been issued) and was passed by Congress without a single vote against.
The Lib Dems co-signed a motion on safe and legal abortion with D66 Netherlands, which tried to set a basic principles, which was also passed by a large majority. There were three other health related motions, on post COVID cooperation on health innovation, mental health and a harm reduction approach to drugs.
A notable turnaround in ALDE was the adoption with 85% in favour of a resolution from our Italian sister party on biotechnological crops. It seems that the EU is a preparing a revision and this vote will give Renew a mandate to change.
European rule of law (addressing the Orban of Hungary problem), a call for investment in European railways, a condemnation off the death penalty in Belarus and an internal motion on ALDE Party discipline made up the rest.
Dublin will also be remembered for an initiative which is very close to my heart. Alongside 33 of our sister parties, Baroness Brinton, Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett and myself signed the Dublin Diversity Declaration on behalf of the Lib Dems, which aims to support and encourage greater LGBTQI+ political representation at all levels of government. Baroness Brinton in her speech to Congress reaffirmed our party's commitment to diversity and indeed the LibDems will be running an LGBT+ focused training programme throughout the summer for senior officials from many of our sister parties in Eastern and Central Europe.
All in all it was a very successful, enjoyable and inspiring few days in Dublin and I would like to thank all those members of LDEG who gave up their time to participate in the LibDem delegation.
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