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FIRST ISSUE 2013

Dossier: Youth Unemployment

Croatia joins the EU Interview with Vesna Pusić and Ivan Jakovčić

Breaking down barriers Flo Clucas on Gender equality: ‘Don’t shut up - name it and change it’

Karel De Gucht Liberalising trade is one of the best tools to deliver growth


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Contents Editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 3 Interview with Vesna Pusić and Ivan Jakovčić Croatia is ready to join the Union . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 4 President’s Column . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 6 Liberalism, trade and growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 7 Liberal summit in Amsterdam: Leaders outline Reform agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 8 Liberal Parties in Central and Eastern Europe: Weakness and Potential . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 11

ALDE Party launches Gender Equality Network ’Don’t shut up and put up – name it and change it!’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 12 The Civic List has much to offer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 14 Interview with Dick Roche ’Smaller member states are better concensus builders’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 15 Dossier: Youth unemployment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 17 - 19 Youth unemployment at record levels European Liberal Youth launches campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 17

Join our Youth Entrepreneurship idea challenge on Facebook! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 18 Interview with Pauline Kastermans A young person’s view on youth unemployment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 19 Selecting candidates for European elections How could ALDE parties innovate? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 20 A liberal drink with Justina Vitkauskaite MEP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 21 Liberal movers and shakers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 22

Calendar / 8 May 2013 - Maastricht, Netherlands ELF, Celebrating Europe / 10-11 May 2013 - Pula, Croatia ALDE Party Council / 28 May 2013 - Dublin, Irland Fianna Fail and LYMEC: Jobs for Youth conference / 27 June 2013 - Brussels, Belgium ALDE Party: Prime Ministers meeting ahead of the European Council / 1 July 2013 - Croatia Accessions as the EU 28th member state / 13 November 2013 - Bucharest, Romania LYMEC: Congress on “European identity” / 28-30 November 2013 - London, United Kingdom ALDE Party Congress

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party is the party for liberal democrat values in Europe. Together with our liberal member parties across the European continent we are translating the principle of freedom into politics, economics and 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 consists of more than 50 member parties from across Europe. Liberal Democrats created their European political family in 1976 in advance of the first direct elections to the European Parliament and in 1993 established themselves as a true transnational political party. Liberal Bulletin is a publication of the ALDE Party. It is published three times a year.

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, aisbl Rue Montoyerstraat 31, 1000 Brussels Tel. +32 2 237 01 40 – Fax +32 2 231 19 07 Editors: Daniel Tanahatoe, Enrico Portelli and Andrew Burgess, ALDE Party Publisher: Didrik de Schaetzen, ALDE Party Layout and printing: Trinome.be With the support of the European Parliament -2-


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Editorial L

iberals have always strived to break down barriers. Following the devastation of the Second World War, Liberals were among the vanguard of those who believed that through the establishment of a European Economic Community a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe could be achieved. Since then, the European Union has served us well. A big economic boom in the 1960’s, the first enlargement in the 1970’s, the adoption of the Single European Act in the 1980’s resulting in a more integrated Internal Market, the fall of the Berlin Wall leading to the end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s and the establishment of the Schengen zone, by now the world’s biggest area which allows people to travel without having their passports checked at the borders. With the expansion of the EU in 2004, the European continent was (nearly) reunited. Now, times are more challenging. In this edition of the Liberal Bulletin, Liberals will argue that bold new initiatives and comprehensive reforms are needed. The European Commissioner for Trade, Belgian Liberal Karel De Gucht, makes the case for a Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America, tackling the remaining regulatory barriers to trade and investment between these partners, which could result in a growth boost of 0.5% to the EU economy, between €70 and €120 billion a year. Earlier this year, the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network was established to break down barriers that prevent full participation of women in economic, social and political life. A full report can be found in this edition. In a joint interview with Ivan Jakovčić, host of the ALDE Party Council in Pula on 10- 11 May, Vesna Pusić, the Foreign Minister of Croatia, argues that Croatian accession on 1 July of this year is an “accession with a task”. It is not a geopolitical or economically based enlargement, but a message from the EU member states that it is time to take the responsibility for the region of South East Europe, surrounded by member states but is still not consolidated and stable. We hope you like the content and design of the new Liberal Bulletin. We’re quite excited and look forward to hearing your feedback! Jacob Moroza-Rasmussen Secretary General of the ALDE Party -3-


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Croatia stands ready to provide political and technical support to its neighbours on their path to the European Union.

Interview with Vesna Pusić and Ivan Jakovčić

Croatia is ready to join the Union Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003 and on 9 December 2011 leaders from the EU and Croatia signed the accession treaty. Subject to its ratification by all EU members, the country will become the 28th EU member country on 1 July 2013. On the date of publication, the parliaments of Denmark and Germany still had to approve the country’s accession. To discuss Croatia’s accession, Liberal Bulletin interviewed Dr Vesna Pusić, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, leader of the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS) as well as the leader of the ALDE Party Council’s host party IDS, Ivan Jakovčić, governor of the region of Istria. What will EU membership mean to Croatia in general and Istria in particular?

has joined a community of values and commonly shared norms.

education, science, culture and all other fields of life.

Vesna Pusić: After almost 10 years of accession negotiations, Croatia is joining the European Union on 1 July 2013. First and foremost the most important benefit is safety and stability of our state, its institutions and its legal system. The predictability of laws, norms and regulations is the long-term benefit for our citizens. The second benefit is the accession to the single market, as it will open new opportunities for our companies and positively affects the investment climate in Croatia, due to reliability of a state as a member of the European Union. The third biggest benefit is freedom of movement for our citizens, especially our young ones, students, workers, travellers. Open borders are also a symbolic message that Croatia

Ivan Jakovčić: For Croatia and its citizens it means belonging to and taking part in a European circle of history, heritage, and working together for the future. The European Union can bring peace and prosperity to Croatia and other states in the Balkans and countries that wish to become members, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

While it is important for each Croatian to be a European citizen, on a regional level, for Istria and the Region of Istria, becoming a member of the European Union is even more important. My wish is for the European Union to bring us better business opportunities and better possibilities of development for our fishermen and for our farmers.

With its accession to the European Union, Croatia is entering a new era and the opportunities and prospects that will open up to us need to be seized in the best way possible. These include the prospects of the single market, of free movement of people and goods, of unity, cooperation and prosperity not only as regards the economy but also in terms of

What benefits will Croatia bring to the EU?

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Vesna Pusić: Croatian accession is an “accession with a task”. It is not a geopolitical or economically based enlargement, but a message from the EU member states that it is time to take the responsibility for the region of South East Europe, which lays surrounded


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

by member states, but is still not consolidated and stable. Croatia stands ready to take full responsibility for its neighbourhood and provide political and technical support to its neighbours on their path to the European Union. By sharing the EU reforms’ know-how with the countries in the region, Croatia will perform an important EU task. But the functioning of our neighbourhood is also the matter of our own functioning, as its stability affects our country’s stability. Therefore, we see it as our contribution, but also our necessity. Croatia’s experience in post conflict state building could also prove valuable for the countries of the southern Mediterranean and as such might be an important contribution to the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. Ivan Jakovčić: Croatia will bring the European Union new strength and new people, along with its own identity which I believe will enrich our common European identity as well. Croatia is nearly at the heart of Europe, representing a sort of bridge uniting the East to the West, the North to the South. Moreover, every Croatian region will bring its own cultural heritage and history, its specificities and products, but also new and innovative ideas and technologies as well as political objectives, such as regionalism and the concept of a Europe of regions. As Minister for Foreign Affairs you have worked a lot towards accession, how pleased are you the day has finally arrived? Vesna Pusić: I have worked on this accession from the very beginning in various capacities. It is in a way also my personal political project and a unique experience to be able to finalise such an important task for your country. My party, HNS, and I personally have advocated Croatian membership in the EU as a core Croatian national interest since the 1990s and managed to gather all political forces to join this project and lead it in a spirit of political consensus through the negotiations, referendum, ratification in member states, to the final day of the accession. For that reason, July 1st will have a special importance in my career, but also my life. However, we are aware that the real work is ahead of us. Leading Croatia as an EU member state is a new challenge and I am ready for it. What is the current situation for liberal politics in Croatia? Vesna Pusić: Two Croatian liberal parties, HNS and IDS, are members of the governing coalition which enables us to implement our policies after almost 10 years of being in opposition. The work in the government is always challenging, but it also creates a wider field for political work and promotion of our ideas and policies. Our key tasks in medium term are to finalise Croatian accession to the European

Union and boost the economic growth. HNS has to strengthen its position and its liberal values and policies. We have to repeat our good result and win the support of liberal voters in the next elections and ensure that their political option remains strongly represented in Croatian politics. Ivan Jakovčić: The liberal option in Croatia certainly needs to be strengthened. The polarisation of the political scene into just two political blocks – the demo-christians and the socialdemocrats is extremely limiting. The Istrian Democratic Assembly, the regional Istrian party I am at the head of, has done much to bring the liberal option closer to the citizens and it represents the most stable political power on the Istrian peninsula. I believe that in Croatia there is still much room for liberals on the political scene, and this is increasingly recognised for example by the young and by people with higher levels of education. How has being part of a wider European liberal family helped your party? Vesna Pusić: HNS has been a member of our European liberal family for 13 years and this experience, exchange and contacts have helped in a number of ways, from networking and support in our internal and foreign political work, to policy making and party building trough training and exchange of experience. The biggest value of this family is its people,

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the friends that you make in all parts of Europe, who strengthen you with their support and advice. HNS has grown as a party through the projects, training and exchange with our liberal partners. As for me personally, the experience of being a Vice President of the European Liberal Democrats has made a big influence on my political career. Ivan Jakovčić: For the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS-DDI) being part of the European liberals - ALDE party means a lot, especially during the process of European integration. I believe that our cooperation within the European Parliament as well will mean prosperity for Croatian citizens, but I also believe that through our work and political creativity we will undoubtedly contribute to the work of ALDE as well. What should delegates take from their visit to Pula, Croatia for the ALDE Party Council? Ivan Jakovčić: Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Pula and Istria, welcome to Croatia! Please take back with you the newly made acquaintances and friendships, new impressions and experiences from a country now part of the united European family. Take back the flavours and the scents of Istria, meet the people and get to know our objectives, programmes and projects. Thank you for being here and please come and visit us again!


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

campaign strongly for gender equality to ensure full participation as equal partners in economic, social and political life. I wish them well.

David Cameron’s EU speech We also finally heard David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on the Conservatives’ view of the UK’s future in Europe. My biggest concern about Cameron’s speech is that promising a referendum creates uncertainty about Britain’s future in the Union which will deter the foreign investors on whom so many jobs depend. Lewis Carroll’s question of ‘Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?’ is still valid, over a century later. In the same week, I made my own big speech about the UK and Europe before a large audience in Paris.

President’s Column

A single EU patent at last Some good news: after more than 15 years of argument between the member states about a 1997 proposal from the EU Commission, a patenting system under which a single EU patent, which must be registered in English, French and German, will be valid across 25 EU member states. (Italy and Spain excluded themselves out of pique that their languages were not included). This will reduce the costs for business of protecting ideas from some €36,000 to just €5,000. Liberals also welcomed the announcement that talks will shortly begin on a comprehensive trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America. Free trade is at the heart of the market economy and at the heart of what liberal parties stand for.

I

am not a great fan of ‘Year of ...’, but as an active citizen let me report that 2013 is the European Year of Citizens. This marks the 20th anniversary of the EU citizenship introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 which gives us the right of free movement, the right to vote and stand for election in local or European elections in whichever EU country we live in, to consular protection from any EU member state in any country outside the EU and to legal protection by the European Court of Justice.

The European budget The budget deal struck between the member states on the 20142020 budget for the EU remains under discussion. The ALDE Group in the Parliament met and agreed not to contest the total amount foreseen but to insist on gearing spending more towards growth, providing for greater flexibility to move money between budget headings and holding a mid-term review so that the next Parliament is not bound by our priorities. The matter is currently in Committee. Final agreement is likely in May or June. My guess is that Parliament will approve the agreement, but only after extracting concessions to allow for easier transfers between budget lines, a budget review in two or three years and a commitment to allocate certain (possibly new) tax revenues to the EU budget.

Amsterdam Summit At the end of February, I co-hosted in Amsterdam with the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte a summit of leading Liberal Democrats: the deputy prime ministers of Germany, the UK, Belgium and Croatia together with leading EU Commissioners, our leader in the European Parliament and the President of the European Investment Bank, who announced he will raise lending by 40% (an additional €60 billion) over the next two years to stimulate Europe’s economy. We discussed the economic and financial crisis, relations with China and preparation for the European elections next year and produced a joint statement outlining a Reform Agenda. European Liberals also repeated our calls for a single seat for the European Parliament – sadly we received another big blow in our efforts when the European Court of Justice ruled that MEPs cannot decide to meet fewer than 12 weeks a year in Strasbourg.

A common candidate I welcomed the recommendation from the European Commission that political parties should nominate a candidate for Commission President in the next European elections to be held in May 2014 and that they should display their European political party affiliation. I look forward to our further discussions on this at the ALDE Party Council meeting in Pula, Croatia.

Launch of ALDE Party Gender Equality Network In March I launched the new ALDE Party Gender Equality Network, which I hope under the leadership of Flo Clucas will become a driving force in the promotion of gender equality policies across Europe. As Robert Burns observed nearly 300 years ago: ‘When Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things / The fate of empires and the fall of kings / When quacks of state must each produce his plan / And even children lisp The Rights of Man / Amidst this mighty fuss, just let me mention / The Rights of Woman merit some attention.’ The Network will

Sir Graham Watson MEP President of the ALDE Party

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Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

We still need to use all the tools at our disposal to deliver growth and liberalising trade is one of the most effective.

Liberalism, trade and growth S

ince Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations, liberals have been pointing to the economic benefits of free trade. Today we need those benefits more than ever. Despite the impressive progress that the European Union has made to overcome the economic crisis, we still need to use all the tools at our disposal to deliver growth. And liberalising trade is one of the most effective. Trade theory has advanced since the 18th Century but the reason trade works still comes back to supply and demand. Trade boosts demand for European products by improving our firms’ access to markets around the world. Already 30 million European jobs depend on sales of our goods and services on foreign markets. This figure has grown by 10 million since 1995 and is set to grow further given that we expect 90% of the world’s growth to come from outside Europe after 2015. Trade helps the supply side of the economy in two ways. First by lowering costs – two thirds of Europe’s imports are of components and raw materials and 13% of the value of Europe’s exports is made up of imported goods and services. Access to international producers improves European producers’ ability to compete. Second, by improving productivity. Allowing more imports and investment into our market raises the competitive pressure on our companies, forcing them to become more efficient. It

also brings in new thinking, contributing to innovation. We know from past experience that a 0.6% increase in the openness of European economies is associated with a 1% increase in productivity. The best way of taking advantage of these forces is through the World Trade Organisation because it delivers transparent international rules and liberalises trade with all of our partners at the same time. But free trade agreements are also a valid channel, one that the EU sees as increasingly promising. We now have a comprehensive programme of free trade agreement negotiations that will eventually cover two thirds of our total trade, if we succeed in concluding them. One of the main determinants of our overall success will be the negotiation we are launching with the United States. The scale of our economic relationship – €2 billion a day in trade, approaching €5 trillion in total mutual investment stocks, 15 million jobs – means that the impact will be huge, which is why there is such a broad political consensus about delivering a deal. The challenge we face is making sure that deal is effective. After decades of trade liberalisation since the Second World War, both of our economies are relatively open so we will need to go into new areas if we want to deliver real progress. That means not only tackling the low tariffs that remain but also the many barriers that exist behind the customs border.

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Chief among these are the regulatory barriers to trade and investment estimated to be as effective as tariffs of between 10 and 20%. However, tackling these will not be easy. Our goal is to find ways to remove their protectionist effects while leaving the protection they provide against environmental, health, safety and economic risks firmly intact. Some may be sceptical about our chances – pointing to the controversies on regulatory issues that have raged across the Atlantic in the past. But in fact these disagreements are more an example of the narcissism of small differences than any fundamental divergence. Comparing the level of protection that both systems offer to their citizens with the level offered in many other countries around the world makes this abundantly clear. This makes me optimistic that with sufficient creativity, pragmatism and determination we can bring this process to a successful conclusion. Let us stay focused on the big picture – a growth boost of 0.5% to the EU economy, between €70 and €120 billion a year. Who could pass up such an opportunity? Certainly no liberal.

Karel De Gucht European Commissioner for Trade


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Liberal summit in Amsterdam:

Leaders outline Reform agenda

At the invitation of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and ALDE Party President Sir Graham Watson MEP, European Liberal Democrat leaders in government and European Commissioners convened in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Monday 25 February and issued the following statement:

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ince our London meeting in January 2012, we have seen a renewed capacity and willingness, at the EU and national levels, to address the challenges that we face and make reforms. For now, the very worst of the Eurozone crisis seems to have passed due to: decisive action by the ECB, passage of the new Economic Governance package, agreement on the first stage of a Banking Union, and on- going structural reform across the Eurozone to cut debt and deficits and boost

competitiveness. We have also seen major EUwide reforms that will have a lasting beneficial effect on our Union: moves by the Commission to lift burdens on small businesses from existing and new regulations and agreement in the European Council to an EU budget, now awaiting the consent of the Parliament. However, there is no room for complacency. The twin crises of sovereign debt and bank capitalisation remain a challenge to the econ-

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omy and to the stability and unity of the EU. Building growth, lowering unemployment and raising competitiveness remain urgent priorities, as does rebalancing and refocusing our Union on the key strategic priorities facing us all. Therefore, we call on all European leaders in all institutions to use the period before the European Parliament elections and the formation of the next College of Commissioners to expand and accelerate the EU-wide reform agenda underway, and to lay out a clear and compelling statement of EU-wide reform priorities for the new Parliament and Commission in 2014 and for the European Council that will deliver a better, stronger and more prosperous EU. In particular:

A Liberal European Reform Agenda European Reform to Resolve the Eurozone Crisis. To avoid any backsliding, and to restore the EU member state economies to long-term


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Building growth, lowering unemployment and raising competitiveness remain urgent priorities

stability and health, the following priority actions are needed: • Economic Governance: The Commission and member states must ensure full implementation of new Economic Governance rules. • Banking Union: The Commission should move swiftly to bring forward further proposals for the Banking Union, and these dossiers should be prioritised through the legislative process by Council and Parliament. • Unity & Integrity: Throughout, leaders and institutions must avoid erecting rigid EU divides, keeping doors open to non-Eurozone members and preserving single market and EU decision-making integrity. European Reform to Boost Jobs, Growth & Competitiveness. To deliver a boost to jobs, growth and Europe’s global competitiveness, the following actions are needed: • Structural Reforms: EU member states must redouble their efforts to implement the long overdue structural reforms, i.e. making labour market more flexible, reforming pension systems, opening up regulated sectors for competition and providing for more women in the workforce through tax incentives and childcare services. • Single Market: Accelerate recent progress in deepening and widening the single market,

especially in the services, energy and digital sectors, through the Single Market Acts and by strengthening Single Market governance. Particular attention has to be paid to unlocking the potential of the digital single market and fostering start-ups in Europe. European leaders must also lay out a clear action plan before the European Elections that can underpin an ambitious 2nd Single Market Programme under the next Commission, with the overall goal of fully completing the EU single market by 2020. • Trade: Build on recent progress by giving the Commission an ambitious mandate to negotiate a far-reaching EU-US Trade deal with the goal of securing a transatlantic single market to the maximum extent possible, and for all actors to help deliver an agreement under this Commission. In addition, all relevant parties should redouble their efforts to complete EU-Canada, EU-India and EU- Japan negotiations under this Commission. • Smarter Regulation: Full and swift implementation of the new Smarter Regulation Strategy, lifting regulatory burdens on small businesses and enacting the Regulatory Fitness Communication. EU leaders and institutions should also set out clear priorities to further this smarter regulation agenda under the next Commission.

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European Reform to Rebalance & Refocus EU Action. With a view to improving, modernising and strengthening our Union as well as to increase democratic legitimacy of the EU governance level, the following actions should be taken: • Institutional Reform & Coordination: EU leaders and institutions should explore and set out priorities for EU-wide institutional reforms, including reviewing the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of existing agencies and institutions, options to move to a single seat for the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in Brussels, preserving and strengthening the role of national parliaments in EU affairs and reforms to restructure the Commission around clusters. • Better Budgeting: EU leaders and institutions should explore avenues for reinforcing EU budgetary control and cost-effective spending, such as establishing an independent European Office for Budget Responsibility, and providing for budgetary flexibility and considering the issue of own resources. • Smart Investment: EU leaders and institutions should explore avenues for unlocking EU-level infrastructure investment and private sector and IFI leveraging, in particular through the EIB.


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

• Modernise Europe: EU leaders and institutions should set out proposals ahead of the next Commission to aid domestic structural reforms, boost competitiveness and tackle youth joblessness. This should include greater flexibility for member states over detailed rules, and targeted EU action to boost skills, apprenticeships, training and higher education opportunities. • Modernise EU Foreign, Security and Defence Policy: In line with December 2012 European Council conclusions, the High Representative should bring forward proposals to boost Europe’s international voice, and enhance value-for-money, capabilities and deployability of CSDP at the very latest by September 2013, and member states should be ready to take swift, ambitious and practical action and put them into effect in pursuit of these objectives. • Subsidiarity: EU leaders and institutions should explore plans where reforms to devolve powers across the EU would be beneficial for all. EU leaders should set out clear

priorities for a targeted EU-wide devolution agenda under the next Commission, to be accompanied by mutual oversight and common monitoring by Council and Parliament on the basis of regular reports by the Commission. • Defending European values: EU leaders and institutions should set out an ambitious agenda to safeguard the respect for human rights and the rule of law in the Union, including the establishment of a mechanism in the Commission to monitor member states’ compliance with the values set out in the Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Looking towards the European Elections in 2014. European Liberal Leaders recognise that the economic crisis has increased political disaffection and disillusion in Europe. However, the reforms needed to tackle our collective challenges will require bold collective EU action and a strong reformist European Liberal family. Today, Liberal parties are in Government in 11 EU member states, 8 European Commissioners

are from liberal parties, and the European Liberal Democrats win the vast majority of the votes in the European Parliament, more than any other Group. We are collectively determined to pull together to ensure that liberalism remains a strong, influential and reforming force across Europe both now and well into the future. With a view to stimulating debate and to influencing the next European Commission’s programme, European Liberal Parties in Government commit to bringing forward proposals for an EU-wide reform agenda setting out the priorities that must be pursued from 2014 onwards, ahead of the appointment of the new Commission. European Liberal Leaders will next meet at the ALDE Party Congress in London on 29-30 November, hosted by the Liberal Democrats of the United Kingdom.

The following took part in the meeting: Mark Rutte, Sir Graham Watson, Nick Clegg, Dr. Philipp Rösler, Dr. Vesna Pusić, Alexander De Croo, Guy Verhofstadt, Dr. Werner Hoyer, Neelie Kroes, Olli Rehn, Karel De Gucht, Martin Lidegaard, Lena Ek, Taavi Rõivas, Birgitta Ohlsson, Crin Antonescu, Artur Mas i Gavarró, Ivan Jakovčić, Tamara Venrooy, Frans Weekers, Hans van Baalen. - 10 -


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Liberal Parties in Central and Eastern Europe: Weakness and Potential

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ollowing the fall of the Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe seemed like fertile soil for liberal ideas of freedom and human rights. Many years of direct or indirect oppression from Moscow was no longer on the cards, and Europe was back on track for a process of re-unification and prosperity. Paraphrasing Professor Adam Przeworski: openness and liberty, rather than scaremongering and barbed wire, was to be the only game in town, or so we hoped. Some twenty years later, we must sadly conclude that those hopes have only partially been fulfilled. Yes – many CEE countries have made remarkable progress from their starting point in the early 1990’s and, as a result, joined the European Union. But organised liberalism has only really been successful in a handful of countries over the longer term, leaving many present-day countries without a properly functioning liberal party active in the respective parliaments and governments, which instead increasingly seem to feature forces with populist and/or nationalist agendas.

While openness and liberty undoubtedly has become more prominent in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain; it still seems a far cry from being the only game in town.

Worried and curious about this situation, and eager to assist in pushing the liberal agenda back to the fore, the ALDE Party decided in 2011 to embark on a comprehensive two-year research project, in the hope of finding some of the underlying reasons for this situation. Steered by the Dean of the Social and Political Sciences Faculty of Université Libre de Bruxelles, Dr. Jean-Michel De Waele, the project involved professors and researchers from leading universities or research institutes in five countries in the concerned region (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia) and solicits their views on the prevailing situation for liberals in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as consults their thoughts on what could be done to further improve matters. Through desk research, focus groups and indepth interviews with both citizens and liberal politicians, the final report entitled ”The Liberal Parties in Central and Eastern Europe: Weakness and Potential” was published in April 2013, and is available on the ALDE Party’s website, www. aldeparty.eu/publications. The report, based on two separate reports per country, attempts to answer the following questions: – What is the current potential for liberal parties in the region?

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– What are the main reasons for the failure of some liberal parties to reach their full potential? – What could liberal parties in the region improve? – Are there similarities between the countries in the region? – What do the insiders say? As we approach next year’s elections to the European Parliament, it is obviously in the interest of both the ALDE Party and its members to improve the situation as much as possible, to get a better representation from across Europe. If you find this research interesting, and would like to share any feedback or as regards its contents, or for that matter would like to suggest concrete follow-up, your thoughts are warmly welcome! Please then do get in touch with this project’s coordinator, Political Adviser Joakim Frantz of the ALDE Party by mailing jfrantz@aldeparty.eu or calling +32 2 551 01 61.

Joakim Frantz Political Adviser ALDE Party


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

ALDE Party launches Gender Equality Network ’Don’t shut up and put up – name it and change it!’ “The first President of the European Parliament was a woman – and a liberal at that, but unfortunately, there is only one other woman among her successors. Half of Europe’s population are women, but politics don’t reflect that: the majority of MEPs, MPs are men, which just comes to show that we have a long way to go yet in achieving gender equality. The role of ALDE Party’s Gender Equality Network is just that: to attract more women to become active members of liberal parties across Europe,” said ALDE Party President Sir Graham Watson MEP launching the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network in Brussels. The ALDE Party Gender Equality Network will campaign for gender equality and the promotion of women’s rights. The goal is to ensure the full participation of women in economic, social and political life. It supports the participation of women in the public sphere of the European Union and campaigns for the implementation of gender equality policies within ALDE member parties and on the European level. In her introductory remarks Flo Clucas OBE, President of the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network, recalled the sacrifice of British suffragettes, such as Emily Wilding Davison who was trampled to death by a horse when she protested at the Epsom Derby. “While women today in Europe make up 67% of graduates and 27% of entrepreneurs, they are paid on average 17,6% less than their male colleagues, are denied educational opportunities and exploited,” she said. “It is high time

that we remind ourselves that women and men deserve social, economic, financial and educational equality – not only on paper.” Virginija Langbakk, Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality agreed. “It is not about equal rights – on paper men and women are equal – it’s about the “soft issues” and here it is especially important to involve men,” she said during her keynote speech. What prevents women from entering top level positions, Ellen Madeker, Chairwoman of the Brussels-based group of the German liberal party (FDP), asserts, is a lack of female role models. “Role models are very important because they have considerable influence in shaping career paths. They can boost our self-confidence. At university, I had mostly male professors, so far only male bosses and at work I’ve made the experience that the more high-ranking delega- 12 -

tions from anywhere in the world are, the more exclusively male they are – and the older the members, the more likely it is to be mistaken for the secretary,” she recalls. Isabella Lenarduzzi had been working as a social entrepreneur in Belgium for a while when she realised she was the only woman owning her own event company and decided to motivate women to take the risk of becoming an entrepreneur. In 2006 she founded JUMP with the goal to “empowering women, advancing the economy” – in bold white letters on bright pink. She was inspired by the “pink loan” initiative of Italian banks, which was meant to be an incubator for female entrepreneurism. “Pink is a statement. I don’t want to be or act like a man. The key to success for a woman is to remain herself. It is a myth that femininity has no place in leadership,” she insists.


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Addressing the panel, moderator and EU Correspondent Sylvia Schreiber, recalled an advertisement from the 50s featuring a woman smoking a cigarette. The text of the advert read ’You’ve come a long way, baby‘. “In the 50s only 20% of women worked outside the home – and for a large part in so-called “female occupations” and they earned 59 cents for every dollar that their male colleagues did as compared to 70 cents for every dollar in 2000. So you could say that progress has been made,” she said. The progress in the 60s and 70s was steep, but has become a flat curve since the 90s; the debate about gender equality has been silenced until it has become a “non-issue”, Olle Schmidt MEP lamented. Showing pictures of the ECB executive board, governing council and general council, he pointed out “there you have the EU body with currently the greatest influence. Thirty men and not a single woman. When I raised the question at the ECB, I was told ‘you only have one question, do you really want to waste it on this?’ ” Schmidt recalled his fight for his right to paternity leave back in the day and wants to see more female speakers at conferences across Brussels, especially where they are underrepresented. “The discussion we are having today in the EU is one that we were having in Sweden in the 70s.” Former Mayor Marion Lesmere told how at Brussels City Council there is a non-written agreement that the coalition party with the least votes has to supply the “female quota”. This practice contradicts the purpose for

It is high time that we remind ourselves that women and men deserve social, economic, financial and educational equality – not only on paper ALDE Party Gender Equality Network President Flo Clucas OBE

which gender quotas are being designed, and challenges what benefit a pan-European gender quota will bring. For what has been common practice among successful men – taking a young protégée under their wing – women have been hesitant to support other women, hesitant to be cast as ’the feminist‘. Concluding the debate, ALDE Party Gender Equality Network President Flo Clucas said: “We need to keep in mind the wise words, Madeline Albright once famously said: there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other, which is why one of ALDE Party Gender Equality Network’s - 13 -

main objectives is to launch a mentoring programme that will connect young professional women with a mentor who has experience and connections in her field.” More information about the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network can be found here: www. aldeparty.eu/gender-equality-network The launch event was held in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) at the Cercle de Lorraine in Brussels.


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

In times of crisis it is necessary to build on common values and find solutions together

The Civic List has much to offer The Civic List was established a year and half ago, just weeks before the Slovenian preliminary elections 2011, by a group of individuals who shared common beliefs and felt a strong responsibility to engage in Slovenian political life. With its electoral programme the party positioned itself in the centre of the political spectrum while building on values of classical liberalism. Until then these views had not been very prominent in Slovenian mainstream politics. Nevertheless, the party’s alternative and somewhat progressive ideas were welcomed by the Slovenian citizens. The party successfully entered into the Slovenian National Assembly and afterwards joined the centre-right Janša Government. After the publication of a report of the Slovenian Commission for the Prevention of Corruption in early 2013 pointing to some serious irregularities committed by the Prime Minister, the Civic List consistently defended a zero-tolerance approach to corruption. The circumstances eventually led to the fall of the government. This happened in a very critical time for the country. Slovenia’s debt was increasing, threats of downgrading the country’s credit rating were growing, a drop of the country’s GDP was projected and the productivity and employment rates were worsening. This all required

quick reactions and responsible decisions. For the Civic List this meant the party entered into the centre-left government (under the steer of a new centre-left leader Alenka Bratušek) to ensure that the party’s key projects aiming at the country’s recovery continue. As such, the main priorities of the new government remain the consolidation of public finances, a rehabilitation and stabilisation of the banking system, privatisation, an increase of the country’s competitiveness and an improvement of the overall business environment. These measures are leading the country towards recovery and regaining the confidence of the markets. Restore the confidence of Slovenian citizens in politics is of equal importance. In this respect a particular responsibility and great opportunity has been given to the Civic List as today the party has ministers in government running three key ministries: the Ministry for Interior and Public Administration, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Spatial Planning. Reinforced prosecution of organised crime and corruption, reform of the judiciary system, revitalisation of the public service and the implementation of key sustainable infrastructure projects are high on our agenda. By implementing these measures we continue to fully engage in a democratic dia- 14 -

logue and remain committed to responsible decision-making. In times of crisis it is necessary not to overemphasise each others’ differences, but to build on common values and find solutions together. This applies to national politics, but also to our great liberal family. Especially now we have much to offer. Everyday we are learning from our partners abroad and we should all keep reflecting on each other’s work, our great achievements, but also mistakes. The coming period with the European elections ahead will offer many excellent opportunities to do that and we should not miss them. Let’s stay engaged in building a better future together.

Dr Gregor Virant Minister of the Interior and Public Administration of Slovenia


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Interview with Dick Roche

’Smaller member states are better concensus builders’

The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates among Member States every six months. In the first half of 2013, Ireland holds the Presidency for the seventh time and will guide the work among the Member States. In this interview, ALDE Party Vice President and Ireland’s former Minister of State for European Affairs (2007-2011) Dick Roche argues that smaller Member States are better consensus builders, as they tend to be less delusional about their central role in EU decision-making.

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Ireland currently holds the presidency of the European Council. How successful do you think Ireland will be in moving forward the EU agenda at this important time? The slogan for Ireland’s Presidency 2013 “Stability, Jobs and Growth” - is an interlinked set of aspirations that few would question. Past Irish presidencies have been generally regarded as successful. I recall when we cracked the impasse on the discussions on the constitutional treaty during the 2004 presidency a colleague was talking about “the luck of the Irish”. The reality is that you make your own “good luck”. Smaller member states, probably because they are smaller, tend to be less delusional about their centrality in European affairs and tend as a consequence to be better consensus builders. Ireland has tended to punch well above her weight in terms of presidency programs and delivery so I wish the current Irish presidency every good fortune not least because of the critical position in which the European Union currently finds itself.


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

The speech will hang like a sword of Damocles over discussions on all big-ticket issues during this and the next eight or ten Presidencies. The Union is now in uncharted waters with no clear idea of a destination

A priority for European liberals and the European Union is to create growth and employment. Securing economic stability and ensuring that it leads to jobs and growth is a very ambitious theme – if a little hyperbolic. The economic trough in which Europe has been languishing for far too long has imposed untold misery on many European citizens. The high level of unemployment amongst young people in the European Union, one of the richest markets in the world, is a reprehensible monument to the failure of political leadership. The EU Council has been less than inspirational over the crisis and all too frequently the big decisions have been long fingered – or worse still made elsewhere. Given that Ireland has been seen ‘to be taking the medicine’ it is a pity that the Presidency didn’t take the opportunity to more publically pose some questioning of the wisdom of sticking rigidly to policies put in place in the immediate aftershock of the banking crisis. The Irish Presidency programme acknowledges fundamental weaknesses in the union’s monetary architecture. I welcome that frankness but feel that the Presidency might have spoken more robustly on what needs to be done. Future stability, the Presidency argues, needs to be “anchored in a manner which endures”: we all agree! It goes on to state: “the EU economy simply cannot grow meaningfully unless investors and consumers have confidence in the Union’s banking system and the regulatory architecture underpinning it.” The frank recognition that the Union’s existing arrangements are not anchored in the manner that they should be is welcome: to solve a

problem you must first acknowledge that you have a problem. What do you think should be done? There is one elephant in the room that is being overlooked: the question of the fitness for purpose of the ECB as currently constituted. It would be unfair not to acknowledge that the ECB has achieved a lot in the short time since its creation - but it is capable of more. The near collapse of large parts of Europe’s banking system revealed that the ECB had been woefully lax and had tolerated a regulatory system that is not fit for purpose. The ECB was in the best position to monitor the massive flows of credit from central to the peripheral economies: it failed to take effective action. Yet the idea of a root and branch overhaul in the ECB is something of a taboo subject. It could and I feel should have been brought more to the fore by the Irish Presidency: it is an issue on which Ireland could introduce some useful insights. The manner in which the ECB was established, the narrow focus that was set for the bank and the fact that it lacks the full range of instruments typically available to central banks are all issues that need to be openly discussed. It needs to be acknowledged that architects of the Eurozone failed when they created a European Central Bank that was just ‘half’ a central bank, not allowed to operate as the lender of last resort to Member States, could not engage in ‘quantitative easing’ and had to invent a system for taking up bonds that operated as a god-send for massive hedge funds and speculators and it has been over focused on inflation. - 16 -

UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently delivered his long-awaiting speech on Europe. What is your opinion on the speech? What impact do you think this has/will have on other EU members? The speech will hang like a sword of Damocles over discussions on all big-ticket issues during this and the next eight or ten Presidencies. The Union is now in uncharted waters with no clear idea of a destination. Mr Cameron has in effect unilaterally committed his fellow EU Council colleagues to a course of action that few if any welcome without any specific advance warning, without any discussion as to how the process is to be actuated and without any idea as to the precise issues on which he feels a renegotiation should focus. That he has done this at a time when other pressing issues must be attended to is odd to put it mildly. This is not the best way to create sympathy for his cause. Even if Mr Cameron can charm his colleagues it is hard to envisage quite what type of arrangement he can get. Could the UK end up with an arrangement with the EU like Norway? An arrangement similar to Norway’s is a possibility: that would give the UK access to the single market but it comes at a very considerable cost. Norway signs up for EU legislation without having a say in its enactment and makes a handsome contribution to the Union’s finances. It is hard to see such an arrangement seducing British voters.


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Dossier: Youth unemployment

Youth unemployment at record levels Youth unemployment is at crisis level across a number of EU Member States and the rates of youth unemployment are more than double the standard rate in many EU Member States. Across the EU youth unemployment has reached 22% on average and are as high as 50% in some Member States. The unemployment crisis in Europe has hit young people hardest. European Liberal Youth together with the ALDE Party have launched a campaign and dedicated website at www.jobsforyouth.eu to gather and debate new ideas on how we can address the situation. The true rate of unemployment is currently being masked by emigration and large numbers of young people are entering or staying in education. The European Commission as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Growth has called on all Member States to draw up a national plan to combat youth joblessness. In January 2012, the President of the European Commission, JosĂŠ Manuel Barroso, called for specific policies to be put in place by EU Member States to tackle youth unemployment along with providing increased supports for small and medium-sized businesses.

The ALDE Party adopted a resolution to address the issue at its 2012 Congress in Dublin. The European Liberal Youth organisation LYMEC has taken up the gauntlet to transmit our message to decision makers at national level, calling for immediate action. The ALDE Party has launched an idea challenge on Facebook to collect concrete ideas how we can promote entrepreneurship among young people. At the same time, several events will be organised across Europe to address the issue.

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Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Dossier: Youth unemployment

Join our Youth Entrepreneurship idea challenge on Facebook!

E

What do we promise?

urope is lagging behind when it comes to entrepreneurship. Only 22% of Europeans had first-hand experience in starting a business while 38% of Americans had it (Eurobarometer, 2009). Europeans don’t think highly of entrepreneurs either. 49% of Europeans think that entrepreneurs exploit other people’s work, while only 26% feel that way.

By joining the campaign you can have influence on Europe’s policies on entrepreneurship. * The top contributor will be invited to join ALDE Party’s Congress in London. * Your ideas will influence the ALDE party manifesto. They will influence the politics in various national parties as well as ALDE representatives in EU parliament.

“We should glorify our entrepreneurs. We need more Angry Birds, Spotify, Skype and the likes in Europe. Europeans need to be creative and fearless”

* Finally, as a token of thanks for your time, we are offering the top 10 participants a €25 voucher to purchase one of the many books ALDE party promotes as part of its ‘liberal collection’

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, Commissioner for the Digital Agenda However, entrepreneurs worldwide have an enormous impact on the economy and society. The majority of new jobs are created by startups and 45% of Europeans actually would like to be their own boss if they could. How do we make Europeans, especially the youth, more likely to pursue entrepreneurship? Join our idea challenge on Facebook and get your voice heard! www.aldeparty.eu/challenge

“It’s all hands on deck to ensure that every young person in the EU is being offered a job or an apprenticeship or equivalent after a maximum of four months of inactivity. Member States should make the Youth Guarantee legally enforceable in order to effectively fight youth unemployment.” Nadja Hirsch MEP (FDP, Germany)

“Europe’s citizens owe a debt of gratitude to the many entrepreneurs that have showed the vision and the courage, the guts and the grit to keep the parts of our industry competitive in times of epochal change and to keep people in jobs.”

“We need to support entrepreneurs and self starters in developing new businesses and social enterprises, which are vital to our global competiveness. Youth entrepreneurship is something that I’d like to see more of.”

Sir Graham Watson MEP, President of the ALDE Party

Phil Bennion MEP (Liberal Democrat, UK)

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Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Dossier: Youth unemployment

Interview with Pauline Kastermans A young person’s view on youth unemployment

M

y name is Pauline Kastermans. I am currently 22 years old and just finished my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences at Amsterdam University College. As I am currently a part of JD’s national board as International Officer, I have not yet found the time to start looking for a job.

made for youth from €50 million to €100 million. Also D66 calls for the unions and employers, who currently have about €500 million to spend on (re)education, to target their budget more on the youth among the (un)employed to prevent a Dutch “lost generation” as much as possible.

What does the employment situation look like in the Netherlands? Do you have any personal experience from your life or friends that have experienced unemployment themselves?

JD would like to add to this that we call for more investments into innovation to encourage the foundation of SMEs and thereby encourage young entrepreneurs. Thereby the link between education, research and business should be minimised and small initiatives encouraged. As concrete policy examples, one could think of “regulation free zones”, so that young entrepreneurs are not bound to strict labour market laws and regulations. Also we call for the labour market to be made more flexible so that it will be easier for employers to hire and fire people.

Currently, the official youth unemployment numbers for the Netherlands is 15%, while in 2011 this was 9.8%. Last year 108,000 young people were unemployed on average in comparison to 83,000 in 2011. The ‘normal’ unemployment was 7.5% in January 2013. Within JD I know some instances where graduates faced or are still facing difficulty finding a job or traineeship. Also, I know some people that have decided to stay in education longer to prolong their entry into the labour market. However, this seems to differ a lot between cases, as there are also some instances whereby people have found job(s) within a reasonable period of time. What is the position of your party and/or youth organisation? As our current government recently called for reforms, D66 has responded with some demands, namely to double the investments

What is your opinion on the resolution adopted at the ALDE Party Congress in Dublin 2012? Could it be used in your county? What improvements could be made? The resolution on youth unemployment as adopted generally falls in line with our policies and demands. Within the Netherlands the focus should especially be on the link between education and the labour market, as this is the biggest challenge. Emigration is not an issue in our country, as it is in countries such as Spain or Greece. Also it would be beneficial if the European Union would invest more in innovation

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policy and shift their focus especially towards SMEs and young entrepreneurs, as we already suggested on a national level. What could be done in your country to improve the employment situation for young persons in Europe? As mentioned before, the current government has promised to invest €50 million extra in youth unemployment of which 50% will be mainly spent on the lower-educational levels to encourage further education. Also, an ambassador for youth unemployment was introduced on April 2nd. We believe that the money invested in youth unemployment should be increased and policies on making the labour market more flexible should be implemented sooner rather than later. What could be done by LYMEC and the ALDE Party to improve the employment situation for young persons in Europe? LYMEC and the ALDE Party are making a great start with raising awareness on the issue of youth unemployment with this active campaign involving lots of member organisations. Moreover, they should continue their political work on the issue within the European political framework by lobbying for youth-friendly policies and flexibilisation of the labour market.


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

Associate members corner How could ALDE parties innovate? With the launch of the Liberal Bulletin, the ALDE Party will provide in each edition a podium for Associate members to present their point of view on a topical European issue. The European Parliament is now on an equal footing with the EU Council (the representatives of the Governments of the EU Member States). Yet, the more the voices of the EU citizens are meant to be heard through their elected representatives in Brussels, the less the citizens are attracted to the EU, a result so blatantly evident in the growing levels of abstention seen during European elections. In addressing this growing feeling of a “democratic deficit”, as well as that “Brussels is far from home”, various ideas have been aired from an EU-wide campaign of the candidates for the top post of the European Commission, the EU’s executive, to a truly “federal union”. Some novelty ideas have already come into play, such as the “European Citizens Initiative” allowing European citizens to team up across several EU member states and, if successful, to suggest directly - not through their representatives - a change in a policy and/or legislation (bottom-up). In spite of these developments the core problem is that in many nations the elections for the European Parliament are all about political parties presenting to the electorates a “take-it-

or-leave-it” list of candidates, which very often seems to be the result of internal compromises and “power games” that have little to do with the future of the EU (top-down).

• The drafting of the list in accordance with the final results. Do you think this would work? How could ALDE parties innovate in other ways?

Parties advocating in favour of both genuine competition and a stronger EU, such as those belonging to the family of ALDE, could reinforce the EU as well as themselves by opening the search of candidates among their members and the society as a whole, thus increasing the “feeling of ownership” of the developments in the EU. One possible format could be the following: • An open invitation for written, two-page contributions on any EU policy of free choosing; State of play and concrete suggestions for reforms/liberalisation (plus a CV). • The shortlisting of the top-20 proposals through e-voting among party members. • The presentation of all proposals and Q&A through an open congress with additional questions from the audience on many other aspects of the EU (live broadcast, where possible). - 20 -

Olympios Raptis and Athena Drakou, Associate members, European citizens from Greece, living and working in Belgium and the United Kingdom

What do you think of these ideas? Add your voice and views on the ALDE Party web forum for Associate members www.aldeparty.eu/forum


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST ISSUE - 2013

A liberal drink with Justina Vitkauskaite MEP What or who motivated you to enter politics? It just happened! During the final years of my studies in the university I was offered an internship in one of the political parties, in the press office. That party then won the elections and I was invited to join the office of the new Chairman of the Parliament of Lithuania. Later on a new party emerged (a year and a half ago both parties merged) and I was invited to join it. Being young and active myself I liked the young team and its creative spirit, energy and potential and also the charisma of the leader. There was something new about this party – its positive and stimulating approach towards young people and to those who create the wealth of the state, its desire for a better quality of life of our country. I wanted to be a part of this and I took an active role in the activities of national and EU youth organisations. I then joined the team of one of our MEPs, then the team of another one... Finally I become an MEP myself. In short I think it is a combination of my character, ambitions and life circumstances that has lead me to where I am now. Do you remember your first-ever international event in which you participated? I think it was in Brussels, perhaps in Prague. In any case it was related to the projects that the Lithuanian Business Entrepreneurs Confederation was running together with other relative organisations from EU member and candidate countries. Our country was about to join the EU and such projects were part of the preparatory works in different levels and sectors - exchange of good practice, social dialogue etc... At that time I was the head of the foreign and public affairs unit in the confederation and my main worry then, during those first international events, I remember was - whether my English is good enough... It became really good with practice and other skills as well, thanks to

those very same projects that empowered me to move across the EU. Where do you stand on the political spectrum? The Labour Party (Darbo Partija), of which I am a member in my home country, is a centrist political party. Our national party is a member of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and is a member of the same name political group in the European Parliament. The ALDE group is the 3rd largest political group in the European Parliament, holding the balance of power between the left and right. Have you ever read the Communist Manifesto? Honestly - no, but my parents did. Perhaps I was that last generation whose experience of the Soviet regime (during which reading this document at a certain age was obligatory for all young persons) finished when I was about 11 years old. What is your favourite quote? It changes with all the new changes and experiences in my life. At the moment I like this one: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” John Lennon. A cup filled half-way is… ? A good opportunity to take a break and fill it again... The best example of government waste is… Moving between Brussels and Strasbourg... How do you feel about freedom of speech in Europe? Freedom of speech is a crucial element of democracy. The problem is that some people misinterpret it as the means to vocally lobby against the democratic rights of others. - 21 -

The most convincing evidence that brainwashing exists in Europe is the fact that some truly believe… That the economic crisis is the EU’s fault instead of the fault of Member States. Or that the economic crisis was caused by the EU, not by the actions of individual Member States. What should be the highest law in Europe? “salus populi suprema lex est” (“the good of the people is the highest law”) What are the greatest books of all time? Those that makes us human. There are too many of them in the world to make a fair competition... Three best things in life… Life, happy life, fruitful life What do you fear? Funfair parks... Do you remember the last time you danced? I cannot remember the time I did not dance for longer than two weeks - I love dancing! I danced professionally for 10 years when being at school and since then it is part of my life and my being. What is your favourite restaurant in Lithuania? My mother’s kitchen!


Liberal Bulletin - FIRST 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 The treasurer of the ALDE Party, Roman Jakič, became Minister of Defence of Slovenia. He is serving in the government that is a coalition of Positive Slovenia, ALDE Party member Civic List (Državljanska Lista), the Social Democrats and the Democratic Party of Pensioners.

Maggie De Block (Open Vld) Belgium’s state secretary for asylum and migration has become the most popular female politician in the Dutch speaking side of the country in recent opinion polls. De Block says this could be the result of her steadfastness.

Maria Arnholm (Folkpartiet) is Sweden’s new Minister for Education and Gender Equality succeeding Nyamko Sabuni. Mrs Arnholm has a background in PR consultancy and extensive experience in the Liberal Party, playing a major role in the party’s success. The Catalan government has appointed Roger Albinyana as new Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Catalonia, replacing Senen Florensa. A former president of the European Liberal Youth (LYMEC) from 2004–2008, he has been an active member of the European Liberal Democrats. - 22 -


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ALDE Party Liberal Bulletin - 01 2013