Page 1

second ISSUE 2013

Lead interview: Liberal Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of Estonia

Focus on: Open Vld leader Gwendolyn Rutten

Werner Hoyer: We are the EU’s bank

Stronger Europe = Simpler Europe


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

Contents Editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 3 Lead interview Prime Minister of Estonia, Andrus Ansip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 4

Report: ALDE Party Council in Pula . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 9 Focus on: Open Vld Interview with Gwendolyn Rutten . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 10

Associate members corner The lethargic trap : Brussels in the face of German elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 15

Change the debate and win the elections Lousewies van der Laan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 6

Report Youth entrepreneurship campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 12

Report: Liberal Breakfast on Lithuanian EU Presidency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 16

President’s Column . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 8

We are the EU’s bank Werner Hoyer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 14

Liberal movers and shakers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 18

Calendar

Erratum

/ 5-6 October 2013 – Odense,

In the last edition, the editorial team neglected to include the name of the author of the article on the launch of the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network, Susan Schneider, Programme Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Brussels. We would like to apologise for the oversight.

Denmark Venstre Congress / 5-6 October 2013 – Klaipeda, Lithuania Congress of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement / 22 October 2013 – Chisinau, Moldova 20th anniversary Celebration of the Partidul Liberal / 24 October 2013 – Brussels, Belgium Liberal pre-summit meeting / 2 November 2013 – Utrecht, The Netherlands

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party is the party representing liberal democrat values across Europe. In conjunction with our liberal member parties throughout the European continent, we are translating the principle of freedom into politics, economics and across all other areas of our societies. The ALDE Party provides an increasingly vital link between citizens and the EU institutions and is continuously growing in size and significance. The ALDE Party is made up of more than 50 member parties from across Europe. Liberal Democrats created their European political family in 1976, ahead of the first European elections. ALDE was established as a truly transnational political party in 1993. Liberal Bulletin is a publication of the ALDE Party. It is published three times a year.

D66 Party Congress / 14-17 November 2013 – Bucharest,

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, aisbl

Romania

Rue Montoyerstraat 31, 1000 Brussels

LYMEC Congress: European identity

Tel. +32 2 237 01 40 – Fax +32 2 231 19 07

/ 22-23 November 2013 – Den Bosch

Editors: Daniel Tanahatoe, Enrico Portelli, ALDE Party

The Netherlands

Publisher: Didrik de Schaetzen, ALDE Party

VVD Party Congress

Date of publication: 20 September 2013

/ 28-30 November 2013 – London,

Layout: Trinome.be

United Kingdom

Printing: Hayez.be

ALDE Party Congress

With the support of the European Parliament

-2-


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

Editorial Next spring, citizens in the European Union will go to the polls to elect a new European Parliament. For the first time, all main European political parties will put forward a lead candidate to be the face of their political family’s European campaign. While the choice by voters for a specific candidate remains indirect this time, it will give the European citizens a fresh chance to send a message and to shape the future of Europe. The situation we are looking at right now is not that optimistic. Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to historically low levels. The latest Eurobarometer poll found that a record 60% of Europeans tend not to trust the EU, a number that has more than doubled since 2007. This issue of distrust towards EU, which in many countries is resulting in the rise of EU critical parties, is an issue we have to start taking seriously and address openly. Perception is reality in most people’s minds and we liberals must take the challenge of addressing these concerns seriously upon ourselves, especially in the upcoming elections where we focus for the next 8 months. We, who believe in the greater good of a leaner and smarter EU, need to get together and have an open discussion on where we want to go. The solution is never black or white, but it is clear that we need to evaluate and facilitate an open discussion on where we are heading with the EU, what are the priorities, and what are the new European narratives we as liberals want to fight for. In other words, we need to restart the wider European conversation again. We liberals believe there is a lot of potential in the European Union that is not yet unleashed and that trust can be regained if we handle and communicate it correctly. Over the summer, under the leadership of ALDE Party Vice President Lousewies van der Laan - appointed by the ALDE Party Council in Pula to head the drafting committee for the European election manifesto – a lot of effort has gone into a first draft of the ALDE Party manifesto for the European elections. Elsewhere in this Liberal Bulletin, she argues that the aim of the text - with a bolder approach and a new narrative - is to inspire Europeans with a Europe that’s simpler, freeing member states’ resources to kick-start the economy and getting the EU’s strategic objectives for the future right. Also at national level, liberal politicians work tirelessly to unleash the potential. In his interview, one of Europe’s longest serving Prime Ministers, Andrus Ansip of Estonia, quotes one of his country’s founding fathers Jakob Hurt: “If we cannot become great in size, we must become great in spirit and entrepreneurship.” We should make this attitude much more alive across our continent. Finally, in Belgium, a country which until recently seemed torn apart between its different communities, our two liberal parties support comprehensive institutional reforms to make Belgium stronger. Economically, the country is getting back on track again and confidence among consumers and companies is growing. Open Vld party leader Gwendolyn Rutten says it is a result of a fine balance between austerity measures and socio-economic reforms – and growing demand from its main trading partner Germany.

I hope you like reading the content of this Liberal Bulletin and we welcome any input you might have for future editions.. Jacob Moroza-Rasmussen Secretary General of the ALDE Party -3-


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

Lead interview :

Prime Minister of Estonia, Andrus Ansip Lithuania currently holds the EU Presidency, the first of the Baltic States who joined in 2004, to do so. How much are you looking forward to Estonia’s turn in 2018? What would be the likely priorities for an Estonian Presidency? We wish all the best to the Lithuanians and are closely watching their progress with interest. Relations between the prime ministers of the three Baltic States have traditionally been good. We often meet, which enables us to share our experiences and coordinate our actions. Estonia is very pro-EU, and our expectations for our own Presidency are quite high. It is an excellent opportunity to drive forward the European agenda, and this is also why we have decided to start our preparations early.

By the way, our Presidency will also coincide with Estonia’s centennial jubilee celebrations. The top priority, as it should be for every Presidency, is to move forward on all fronts and close as many important files as possible. Exactly what the top priorities will be in 2018 is hard to tell today, as a great deal depends on what will be achieved in the meantime. But I would not be too surprised if the Single Market and connectivity; digital economy; free trade; transatlantic relations; and the European Neighbourhood were high on the agenda. In 2018, we will be closing yet another political cycle of the Commission and the Parliament and the multi-annual budget, so I expect there will be many interesting issues on the table. -4-

Energy policy was flagged as a priority at the EU Council talks in May. Connecting the isolated, so-called ‘energy island’ countries like Estonia to European grids and storage facilities was described as a ‘priority’. To what extent do you agree with this point of view? Energy market integration and connectivity with the Single Market, in the wider sense, are naturally top priorities for us. It is partly true that in terms of inter-connectivity, choice and access to the Single Market, we are still somewhat linked to the Soviet Union. In the case of electricity production, Estonia is on the safe side, for now. We should also work and invest in the long-term. Our aim is to create an interconnected regional market, diversifying our


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

If we cannot become great in size, we must become great in spirit.

supply portfolio, whilst providing security of supply at competitive prices. Cable connections to Nordic-Baltic countries and the creation of a functioning regional gas market are therefore hugely important. Good progress has been made, and we owe much of this to European Institutions. From the beginning of next year, when EstLink 2 – a second submarine cable between Estonia and Finland – becomes operational, we can say that in terms of electricity we will no longer be an ‘energy island’. Great strides have also been made in the development of a regional gas market. Building a liquefied gas storage facility and related infrastructure in the region will be a reality over the coming years. By the way, pretty much the same goes for transport, where the most important corridors are still heading eastward. Important steps should be taken to improve access and connectivity with the rest of Europe. The Rail Baltic railway project is also hugely important therefore, as is developing a good regulatory environment for regular flight connections from the periphery to important centres and transit hubs. This is what I would call a proper regional policy in the context of the EU. Estonia’s President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who chairs the steering board of the new EuropeanCloud Partnership, is convinced that Europe should have its own cloud platforms rather than rely on those from US service providers. How realistic a proposal is it for small countries like Estonia to be more web-secure? Data and information have become the main commodities of the information age. We should do our utmost to move forward on the digital front, in order to be competitive. Estonia was indeed among the first to pioneer the creation of a Digital Single Market by 2015. The logic was that Europe needs to create coherent conditions of access to the products and services of the digital age.

Developing a Digital Single Market concerns both infrastructure, market integration, and a favourable regulatory environment for businesses and internet users. Today this inevitably includes cloud computing and big data, which should be addressed Union-wide, to avoid yet more fragmentation. Europe could indeed become a safe haven in the global digital community where the government is open, business flourishes and the citizens can be confident that their rights to privacy are respected.

ways to do things differently, if we ourselves are able to think differently about our own governmental procedures. This is how we have been able to launch a company e-registration process that takes less than 20 minutes; allow 96% of people declare their taxes online; and create fully accepted digital signatures.

Having said that, for countries to be fully websecure, no government can fully rely on a cross-border cloud – whether American or European. Due to the sensitivity of the data in the hands of the government, some clouds must remain within country borders, even if created under uniform EU rules.

One of the founding fathers of Estonia, Jakob Hurt, declared in 1870 that if we cannot become great in size, we must become great in spirit and entrepreneurship. Regaining independence in 1991 was very much a disruptive political event, a liberal revolution. Having firsthand experience of the overreaching, omnipotent and ever-present communist state has made people attached to their liberty. So, the stand-up and the start-up spirit are hopefully still very much alive and the important thing is to maintain and continue to nurture it above and beyond what our size suggests. Transparent governance that is easy to deal with; an investor-friendly tax; and business administration system and e-solutions, are the enablers of that ecosystem.

Your country has been described as “the most advanced digital society in the world.’’ NATO has set up its Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. What lessons do you think other countries could draw from your success? Estonia has learned some very valuable lessons while building its digital government and society over the years. The 2007 cyber-attacks were among them – they proved that building governmental IT systems securely, from the start, is crucial. It is also crucial to be able to react to cyber-incidents, which will require investment and care. This is why we are happy that NATO decided to establish its research centre here, also that the EU headquartered its new agency, EU-Lisa, which governs large-scale databases for the Schengen Area, in Tallinn. When considering others lessons, the most important one for us has been to build a functional e-government and to do so without enormous investments. Technology offers -5-

According to one estimate, Estonia holds the world record for business start-ups per person. Statistics aside, it is clear that entrepreneurship is thriving in the country. To what do you attribute this liberal success?

Finally, if there were no restrictions in life and you could wave a magic wand, what would you ideally like to make happen or what would you do for Estonia? Estonia always ranks well in international comparison lists, yet if you ask Estonians how they would rank themselves, we don’t measure up so well. I would like Estonians’ self-confidence and self-perception to rise. I have no doubt that this will start to happen, even without the magic wand.


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

Change the debate

and win the elections

In the 2009 European Parliament elections, Liberals and Democrats retained their position as the third largest group. The coming elections will be as crucial for the liberal group as it is for Europe. In the last couple of years, the narrative about the EU has changed fundamentally. A recent Pew survey found that the favorability figures of the EU have fallen from 60% in 2012 to 45% in 2013. For the first time, more Europeans think negatively about the EU than positively. This is not a fact we can ignore or, worse, blame on the voters or on “misinformation� or some other external factor. If we do that, it is not unthinkable that a collection of nationalist, Eurosceptic, anti-establishment and single-issue parties will tip the balance in the EP, change the direction of the EU for the worse and cause even more discontent. -6-


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

Credit where credit is due: Eurosceptics have feverishly sharpened and updated their narrative in the last years and now stand to reap the benefits. We, and I include myself, have at times been complacent, believing that our classic narrative would be sufficient despite changing circumstances. Instead of defending our ideas on how to fix Europe and the urgency of it, too often we found ourselves defending the very idea of Europe. And while that idea is very much worth defending, this may not actually be the most effective defense. We should be asking ourselves: shouldn’t some of the people who are dissatisfied with the way Europe currently works be voting for us? The fact of the matter is that liberals have always been on the forefront of EU reform. It is us who want to make our complex and intricate EU more accountable, democratic and transparent. Of course the liberal manifesto contains many concrete proposals that will tell the voters about our policy priorities for the coming term. Ambitious the manifesto certainly is: we want to reform the common agricultural policy to enable EU farmers to compete in a free global market, to meet increasing global demand for food in an environmentally responsible way, to direct funding for research in renewable energies, including sustainable new generation bio-fuels, and to guarantee long-term food supplies. We want businesses to benefit fully from the internal market so that they can create jobs, rather than getting caught up in bureaucracy. We have fought for a balance between security and freedom, voting for antiterrorist measures only if they are really effective and do not undermine human rights. If it were up to us, we would end the EP’s wasteful, monthly travelling circus to Strasbourg. But we’d be fooling ourselves if we believe that policy plans are enough to win elections. Elections are not won on policy, but on narrative. Most of our member parties cannot win elections with the exact same narrative we have used for so long now. We should no longer let others force us to be the defenders of the EU. In fact, any discussion with the premise “for or against Europe” is ludicrous: Europe is a continent and the existence of the EU is a reality that is not up for debate. What we can decide, is if we want Europe to be weak or strong. The only reason why the ‘for or against Europe’ frame keeps popping up, is because it plays into the hands of some parties, because many journalists don’t know any better, and because we play along much too nicely. Change of a political narrative comes through conscious, consistent and clear repeating of the frame that most accurately describes reality as we see it. She who determines what the debate is about, wins. Of course each country

and each party’s situation is different, but as liberal family we do have the power to shift the narrative if we work together. How does the current ‘for or against Europe’ frame work? Ask yourself the following question: a politician who is against the EU, what is she for? Her home country, obviously. Any voter will understand this. Unfortunately, by accepting that frame, the voter will also accepts the opposite: a politician in favour of the EU is working against her home country. Simply by reinforcing the ‘for or against’ frame, we strengthen the eurosceptics. It forces liberals to point out some concrete advantages of the EU, or to re-explain a historic imperative that simply does not resonate in many places anymore, whether we like it or not. Calling our opponents nationalists or anti-European merely reinforces their frame to our own detriment. Perhaps most important: this non-debate sucks all the oxygen away from the question that is real: do we want Europe to be strong or weak? Luckily, also in this framing, voters already know which parties stand for which. This will work to our advantage.

they want to make it transparent and accountable? That is what we mean when we say we want a simpler Europe. This is the narrative that allows us to tell our compelling story. We want a Europe that focuses on our priorities: jobs and security, and not waste most of its energy on fighting over budgets. A simpler Europe is a stronger Europe. Only a simpler and therefore stronger Europe will create jobs, enable long-term prosperity and earn back the confidence of the people. Our ambitious manifesto, and our voting records that support it, show Liberals and Democrats are not content with Europe as it is. Voters have three options: keep the EU we have by voting for the big groups. Voice discontent by choosing one of the new parties that want to tear down the EU. Or change Europe for the better, by making the Liberals and Democrats stronger. 29 August 2013

We should be much more mindful of the words we choose to accept. For example, do we defend the “transfer of powers to Brussels”? This means that countries currently have powers that they are about to lose if “Europe” gets its way. Just because this is nonsense does not mean it is not convincing. Instead of letting us be forced into frames like that, we should attack nationalists who “want to stand alone in the world”, ask them how they will “pay for their retreat from Europe”, simply because they are “too immature to share responsibilities”. Not only is this a very different narrative, it also happens to be the truth. As in all political families, there are some variations in the ideas of our member parties on how to move Europe forward. I honestly believe that these matter far less than we think they do, as they are mainly tied to old and false frames. They certainly matter less now than they did in the past. In essence, all liberals are reformers. We all want an EU that is leaner, meaner, more transparent, logical, democratic and accountable. We as drafting committee have tried to find a concept that summarises this shared ambition. Like any metaphor, its purpose is not to be the complete and ultimate summary of our ideas; it is a tool that allows us to break into the debate and give a enough of a punch to actually make an impact. We should not allow the campaign to be a match between ‘Europe vs the home team’. The question that is on the table is if voters want to live in a Europe that is weak or strong. Do they choose the complex, unaccountable and often bureaucratic Europe that we have today, or do

-7-

Lousewies van der Laan Vice President of the ALDE Party and chair of the drafting committee for the manifesto for the European elections in 2014.

The manifesto will be formally adopted at the ALDE Party Congress in London on 30 November 2013. Member parties will be able to submit amendments by using a new online tool. International officers will receive information on how to use this new tool.


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

President’s Column

The EU now at 28 European Liberals have always been staunch supporters of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. I therefore welcomed news that all 27 member states’ national parliaments approved Croatia’s accession. Their entry into the Union on 1 July was the culmination of their long journey to EU membership. While there are still reforms to accomplish, Croatia has benefited greatly already from EU engagement and I would like to pay tribute to the key role that liberals have played in this development. Dobrodošla Hrvatska, Welcome Croatia!

I

n Brussels, on Wednesday 15th of May, I hosted a liberal breakfast focussing on ways to tackle youth unemployment across Europe. This is a very topical issue, with joblessness among the young averaging almost 22% in EU member states. We looked at how Germany and Austria have managed to keep their rate below 10%. There are clearly many factors at play, but the devolution of responsibility to local communities and the role played by Chambers of Commerce and Industry are clearly significant.

Yes to free trade! As Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht so eloquently stated in the previous edition of the Liberal Bulletin, liberalising trade is one of the most effective tools available to deliver growth. A report by economists at Germany’s IFO institute suggested that the UK would be the main European beneficiary from the EU-USA free trade agreement for which the negotiating mandate was finalised at the end of June. 400,000 jobs and a rise of nearly 10% in GDP per head should accrue, which makes the case for the United Kingdom leaving the EU even weaker.

Refugees With the arrival of a fresh wave of refugees from Syria and Egypt, I applauded EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström’s initiative to set up an annual forum to examine Member States’ policy on refugees. This follows a pilot project in 2010 and 2011 tracking the fate of 491 refugees from North Africa relocating from Malta to other EU countries. MEPs wanted to make this permanent but member states resisted. At present, all relocations are voluntary; and Germany is the most generous country in offering to take refugees.

Gibraltar They may be fewer than 30.000 people, but their right to live unoppressed is as inviolable as that of any people. And since Gibraltar forms part of my South West England and Gibraltar constituency, I was particularly active in August and September defending these people against six-hour border queues and hate speech from Spain’s Partido Popular government. I welcome the UK’s decision to call in the European Commission to protect the rights of free movement of the inhabitants of The Rock.

A very liberal country In that same month, I visited many of our member parties across Europe. In Estonia I met the leaders of both of Estonia’s ALDE Party members, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip (Reformierakond) and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar (Keskerakond). We discussed next year’s European Parliament elections as well as current domestic affairs in Estonia, including this year’s local elections, taking place in October 2013. With Reformierakond in government and Keskerakond in opposition, as a whole Estonia constitutes one of the most liberal countries in Europe. In the last parliamentary elections in 2011, the parties took more than 50 % of the total votes, and thereby claimed no fewer than 59 seats out of a total of 101 in the national parliament Riigikogu.

Sir Graham Watson MEP President of the ALDE Party

-8-


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

Report: ALDE Party Council in Pula Only two months before Croatia’s accession to the European Union, one of the country’s three liberal parties, the Istrian Democratic Assembly, hosted the ALDE Party Council in the region’s capital Pula. More than 150 ALDE Party delegates gathered on the 10th and 11th of May, one year ahead of the European elections, to debate the key liberal priorities for the upcoming election campaign. In his opening speech, ALDE Party President Sir Graham said: “The moment should not be unkind to Liberalism. Europe’s right is battered by the winds of populism. Our Socialist rivals seem unable to convince the voters. Liberals offer the logic for an escape from despair.”

The ALDE Party Council in session.

Delegates at the Gender Equality Network meeting.

Members of the Bureau preparing the Council meeting.

Council members enjoying a well deserved cultural visit.

The ALDE family grew stronger with the European Party of Ukraine and the Centre Party of the Åland Islands, Finland , joining the Liberals and Democrats for Europe - bringing the number of member parties to 55. Several topical fringe meetings on EU enlargement, combating populism, migration policies and European citizenship were organised by ALDE Party’s partners including the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the European Liberal Forum, European Liberal Youth and the liberal Gender Equality Network.

-9-


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

Focus on: Open Vld

Interview with Party leader, Gwendolyn Rutten Until a few years ago, Belgium was known in Europe for tensions between some of the political leaders of its different communities. In 2010, negotiations to establish a federal government took more than 500 days, setting a world record. However, since, the federal government is now firmly in place and presented its legislative package to radically reform the way the country functions, devolving many powers to the regions and communities of Belgium. Open Vld, which - together with its liberal sister party Mouvement RÊformateur - is part of the federal government, has started a party-wide debate to find a new liberal narrative. Party leader Gwendolyn Rutten is concerned that Belgium and Europe for too long have fallen victim to pessimism and apathy. Liberal Bulletin interviewed Mrs. Rutten to discuss her optimistic reform agenda. - 10 -


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

Citizens expect politicians to take responsibility, especially in times of crisis. So that’s what we did.

Looking back, what made your party decide to join the federal government in 2011? We wanted to end the political stalemate. 511 days had passed since the elections. Belgium was at risk of losing its credibility on the international financial markets. Investors expected a clear signal that the political world was aware of the urgency to carry out reforms. Those were especially needed in the pension system, the judiciary and the labour market. We also promised our voters to thoroughly modernise the institutional country layout. We managed to include all these items in the coalition agreement. Last but not least: citizens expect politicians to take responsibility, especially in times of crisis. So that’s what we did – by joining the coalition and making it work. The institutional changes agreed in 2011 have now been put into a legislative package. In your opinion, which area of legislation is key for your party? We are particularly pleased with the transfer of important competences in labour market policy and health care from the Belgian to the regional level, and that through the increase of fiscal autonomy, communities and regions that obtain good results will be rewarded financially. We improved the cost-efficiency of the institutions on the federal (Belgian) level, e.g. by reforming the Senate, and simplified decision-making in the Brussels region. Finally, we agreed upon the split of the electoral and judiciary district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, resolving an issue that has caused tensions between Flemish and French-speaking parties for decades. Economically, Belgium is doing fairly well. Which reforms have helped to stabilise your country’s economy?

Firstly, In modernising the system of automatic indexation, the government took important steps to strengthen the cost competitiveness of our economy. Secondly, we managed to stabilise the bank sector, although SME’s still have difficulties obtaining credit. Thirdly, the government reformed the pension system, raising the early retirement age and tightening conditions for other early retirement schemes, thus stimulating employment among the older people. All of this contributed to restoring confidence among companies and consumers – a fundamental ingredient in economic recovery. Overall, we managed to acquire a subtle balance between austerity and socio-economic reforms, both of which are needed to solve the crisis. But let’s not fool ourselves: as the Belgian economy is both small and open, we also benefited from the economic performance of our main trading partner, Germany. A lot more needs to be done to further strengthen the competitiveness of our companies. Open Vld calls for a major reform of the Belgian tax system; shift taxes away from labour, and reduce the overall fiscal pressure. You have set in motion a renewal of your party writing ”the involved citizen”, making it a laboratory of ideas. What is your objective? Belgium and also Europe have for too long fallen victim to pessimism and apathy, that may be a normal reaction in times of crisis but it doesn’t help to recover from these times. ‘The Involved Citizen’ is thus an appeal to optimism and the belief in the power of individuals to evolve and progress. It isn’t governments, great leaders or static principles and values which will define the future: it’s us – you! With this book and the website, I want to encourage an exchange of ideas on what citizens can do to solve challenges in the economy or to get

- 11 -

out of the crisis; and on how we can do more with less public money and leave more room for free entrepreneurship and involvement of citizens. It’s all about confidence in our own capabilities, really. Democracy’s entering a new phase; if we as liberals succeed in reducing the pervasive government – hence improving freedom for citizens again – involvement is what citizens could give back in this new type of “social contract”. Next year, most of the European Union citizens will only elect a new European Parliament, in your country, however, voters will also elect regional parliaments and a new federal parliament. After so many reforms, is there still something your party would like to see changed? There remain huge challenges. As I said before, a fiscal reform is urgent. But it won’t be enough. We not only need a fairer and more transparent tax system, we need fewer taxes, especially on labour. Lower and more logical taxes, that’s the main aim for both Open Vld and MR. On the regional level (Flanders and Brussels) we need to use the new competences that are coming our way as a result of the institutional reform package properly. The increased fiscal autonomy of the regions should be used to lower taxes and to give citizens and companies more freedom and opportunities to work; to start a business; and to generate and develop innovative ideas.


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

Report

Youth entrepreneurship campaign - 12 -


At the start of June, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes joined the leading participants of ALDE Party’s «Youth entrepreneurship: how can the EU help» idea challenge for a webinar – an online video seminar. To conclude the challenge, André Soares from Portugal, Nelly Guet from France and Karen Melchior from Denmark presented their winning ideas which mostly focused on better education and information, the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture in Europe and simpler rules to start a business. You can watch a recording of the webinar on the website of the ALDE Party. The leading participant in this challenge was André Soares. He will be invited to London to join the ALDE Party Congress.

Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

We should glorify our entrepreneurs. Europeans need to be creative and fearless.

The winning ideas: 1. Promote one start-up and entrepreneur across Europe each month Young people need role models. Entrepreneurship is still not a widespread idea in Europe. Successful role models could encourage the idea that entrepreneurship is an attractive way to gain employment. 2. One-stop entrepreneur shops throughout Europe For many young people, it is difficult to find out what services are available and where to start. A one-stop entrepreneur shop will offer help and guidance. 3. A European strategy for Youth Entrepreneurship A strategy would have several benefits for potential young entrepreneurs. It would foster an entrepreneurial spirit, knowledge, skills and abilities. It would allow the young entrepreneurs to discuss their projects with peers, through the network of European Young Entrepreneurs. They could find partners from across Europe. It would also help develop easier access to funds. 4. Public incubation centres Working on a start-up requires great amounts of time, energy and resources. Easy access to legal, financial and technical resources facilitates the steps needed to become an entrepreneur.

Why this idea challenge? Youth unemployment is at crisis levels in the EU - averaging 23.5% and in some member states, it’s more than 50%. In the opinion of European liberals, Europe should put more emphasis on empowering youth in pursuing entrepreneurship, which in return will create more jobs. The idea challenge was developed in partnership with the Danish start-up WeDecide and was part of our joint campaign on Youth Unemployment with the European Liberal Youth organisation LYMEC.

5. Develop entrepreneurship education at school Entrepreneurship education has to be integrated from the very beginning in school curricula across Europe. By the age of eighteen pupils would be more engaged in core subjects like science, technology and economics, speak several languages and have developed the skills putting them on the patch to entrepreneurship.

- 13 -


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

It is the bank of the EU with all its 28 member states

“We are the EU’s Bank” The European Investment Bank, the financing arm of the EU, traditionally focuses on projects in the fields of innovation, small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs); and energy efficiency and infrastructure to strengthen the European economy. However, due to the crisis and continued market fragmentation in Europe, the EIB decided to enhance its counter-cyclical course to help stimulate further economic growth and employment, especially in those areas where the crisis has hit the hardest. Following the decision of the European Council in June 2012 to increase the Bank’s paid-in capital, the EIB is expanding its lending activities for the next three years by more than 40 % to nearly EUR 70 billion per annum with a particular focus on small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) and Mid-Caps, as they are the main drivers of growth and employment. However, the EIB is not only widening its lending activities. The Bank, normally a long-term financier, is also enlarging its tool box to eliminate market gaps. In Greece, the EIB launched its first trade finance instrument. This short-term credit enhancement – worth EUR 500 million - will provide guarantees to commercial banks to enable competitive businesses to export and import goods, which they would otherwise be unable to do. The Bank now stands ready to roll out trade finance to Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland. The EIB also cooperates closely with the European Commission to ensure an efficient use of

EU budgetary resources, traditionally focusing on structural funds and supporting key areas such as innovation through the ‘Connecting Europe Facility’ but also in developing new instruments. Together with the Commission, the EIB set up the Greek SME Guarantee Fund. Established using EUR 500 million from unabsorbed Structural Funds for Greece, the Fund will guarantee EIB loans to SMEs of up to EUR 1 billion in total. In Spain, the EIB launched the first transaction under the “Europe 2020 Project Bond Initiative” to stimulate capital market finance for infrastructure. Under this initiative, bonds are issued by the project companies themselves. The role of the EIB and the Commission is to provide credit enhancement to support the issuance of senior debt. The EIB is also exploring further financing tools to help alleviate the financial constraints for SMEs through securitisation. However, prudence is needed, bearing in mind the experience of the subprime crisis. Furthermore, the EIB feels a particular responsibility to support its shareholders and the Commission in their efforts to tackle one of Europe’s most urgent problems: the fight against youth unemployment. In this respect, the Bank set up a dedicated program worth EUR 6 billion per year until 2015. Outside the EU, the Bank – being the financial arm of the European Union – is also strongly - 14 -

committed to supporting EU policies. In 2013, particular attention will be given to the implementation of the revised External Mandate. All of this demonstrates that the EIB is shouldering its responsibilities, particularly in the peripheral areas of Europe. However, let us be clear, the EIB is not the bank of the Eurozone nor is it the bank of the program countries; it is the bank of the EU with all its 28 member states. The EIB is equally active throughout the Union and beyond and will continue to be so. It has a strong and balanced loan book, a fact that is recognised by investors inside and outside Europe, who are willing and keen to provide private capital to the EIB in order to invest in the real economy. To sum up, the EIB is a flexible and powerful tool used to address market gaps and provide support where commercial banks either do not or cannot live up to their role. The EU Bank provides financial backing in an economically challenging environment, but without crowding out the private banks. This is my understanding of our mandate - and of the job a public bank has to accomplish in difficult times.

Werner Hoyer President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), former President of the ELDR Party 2000-05


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

Associate members corner The lethargic trap: Brussels in the face of German elections Many European politicians have one thing in common: they are not very creative when it comes to finding reasons for explaining delayed decision-making. Unless they are able to blame their inaction on unprecedented events such as Eyjafjallajökull or impending prison sentences, there is one rescue measure that usually seems to work: elections! Each month, somewhere in the EU, its 28 members or countless sublevels, some public voting most surely takes place. Even US elections can be a cause for the Union’s slow motion decision-making. Consequently, there is often some country’s leader aiming to be reelected in need of solidarity by his EU partners, particularly if a EU decision might have an influence on the election outcome. To most of us politically active citizens this sounds like nothing new. Someone, however, has taken this electoral solidarity to extremes: the Germans! For the past months it seems like the EU has come to a standstill. While reforms are necessary, they seem to be short in supply. Main reasons can be found in Berlin. Mostly due

to Germany’s intervention and its huge Turkish community, the accession talk continuation with Ankara was moved into autumn - to after German elections. Besides that, following a Merkel order, Berlin delayed the anticipated CO2 reduction deal on European-made cars to, you name it, after the elections. German voters might get hurt if someone touches their holiest of holies – and so might Merkel. Next to other examples, it generally seems as if ideas that could bring the EU forward, such as an ALDE-supported plan of directly electing the Commission President, lack the necessary verve from Berlin. To the German chancellor, every step is one step too far. This wilful lethargy is not only the - 15 -

buzzword of the day – it is her strategy. What matters primarily is the election outcome. EU policies are becoming a secondary issue and fall prey to the lethargic trap. Not least during the London Party Congress, the ALDE Party and its members are advised to get the EU out of this trap and breathe new life into it, convincing people of their liberal ideas and European visions. This is especially true in the face of another upcoming event: European elections! Morten Schmelzer, Vice-Chair of a FDP district in Berlin and among the first to sign up as an Associate member


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

Since the 1st of July, it has been the turn of Lithuania to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the first of the three Baltic States that joined the EU in 2004 to do so. To mark the occasion, the ALDE Party and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Brussels organised a Liberal Breakfast at the country’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels, allowing people to come together to discuss the liberal perspectives on the priorities of this groundbreaking EU presidency. ALDE Party President Sir Graham Watson opened the event by saying: ‘’Today is a great day. The first former Soviet Republic presides over our Union. We have come a long way in 25 years. We look to Lithuania to breathe new life into Europe.’’ Liberal Bulletin interviewed Lithuanian ALDE MEP Leonidas Donskis following the breakfast meeting. - 16 -


Liberal Bulletin - SECOND ISSUE - 2013

The Baltic region has become a laboratory for change

Report: Liberal Breakfast on Lithuanian EU Presidency Mr Donskis, whilst giving your keynote speech at this event in July, you not only discussed the priorities for your country’s EU Presidency, but also presented your views on why Lithuania is advocating a “Credible, Growing and Open Europe”. In your view, what is the exceptional Lithuanian experience, its unique character and its contribution to the European Union? After being occupied by the Soviet Union for 50 years, Lithuania developed a special sensitivity to the countries facing a similar destiny. Therefore, it will surely play a big role in defining the future

of the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme. I believe that the Eastern Partnership summit that will be taking place at the end of November in Vilnius would be the culmination of Lithuanian foreign policy, especially if the EU-Ukraine association agreement is signed. My country has played a key role before, especially under President Valdas Adamkus, when Lithuania took the leadership in the process of Ukraine’s integration to the democratic European family. In which way does your country have other exceptional experiences? - 17 -

In the last twenty years the country developed politically, economically and socially so rapidly that these transformations can only be compared to similar developments which took ages in Western Europe. That experience can also provide deep and valuable knowledge for the EU. In fact, the Baltic region became a real laboratory of transformations. Therefore, the Lithuanian EU presidency gives an opportunity for a small country to propose its vision and its recipe for European challenges and dilemmas.


Liberal Bulletin - second ISSUE - 2013

The ALDE Group in the European Parliament has a new account on Twitter, the social networking service. For regular news, live comments and updates from our MEPs, follow @aldegroup.

Liberal movers and shakers ALDE Party Vice President Ramona Manescu was appointed the new Transport Minister of Romania. Constanta-born Manescu has also been a member of the European Parliament since 2007. The 41-year old was nominated by the National Liberal Party, PNL, a member of the governing coalition. Gjerg Dedaj was appointed as Kosovo’s new deputy minister of Culture, Youth and Sport. Leader of ALDE Party member PLK, Dedaj has always advocated a European perspective for Kosovo, insisting it to be the best way towards peace and reconciliation and sustainable economic development in the region. ALDE Party Vice President Astrid Thors has been named as the new High Commissioner on National Minorities for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), working on conflict prevention at the earliest possible stage. Before, Thors was a member of the Finnish parliament, Minister for European Affairs and Migration as well as an MEP. Bulgarian liberal MEP Vladko Panayotov was recognised by ‘The Parliament Magazine’ for his work in the field of the environment. Panayotov is described as "a great political talent" and was praised for promoting science and innovation-based technology. Panayotov has put his scientific background to good use as an MEP. - 18 -


Working for liberal values in Europe

Support the European liberal values and become an associate member For 10 â‚Ź until the end of the year (5 â‚Ź if you are not yet 30 years old), associate membership cardholders have privileged access to ALDE Party events, home delivery of publications and much more. Join us at www.aldeparty.eu/associate


/aldeparty @aldeparty

Š ALDE Party aisbl - Design: Trinome.be - Produced: September 2013 - With the support of the European Parliament

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party Rue Montoyer 31 | B-1000 Brussels, Belgium Tel: +32 2 237 01 40 | Fax: +32 2 231 19 07 info@aldeparty.eu | www.aldeparty.eu

ALDE Party Liberal Bulletin - 02 2013  

The ALDE Party Liberal Bulletin is published three times per year.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you