Published three times a year by the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
BULLETIN Signs of hope in Armenia ?
Contents ■ Signs of hope in Armenia ? . . . . . . . . . . . page 2 ■ Europe’s interest in a prosperous Armenia . . . . . . . . . . . page 3
There is currently a somewhat elusive political situation in Armenia. At a first glance it seems all political parties are being given relatively equal airtime on national TV channels and everything is going smoothly, but
In March, the European Parliament supported your repor t on the Eu ropean Commission’s « Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy », which sets a policy framework for the European Union to achieve an 80-95% reduction in its CO2 emis-
■ Liberal views on energy . . . . . . . . . . . page 4
■ ELDR Congress in Palermo elects new President . . . . . . . . . . . page 6 ■ Sights from the ELDR Congress in Palermo . . . . . . . . . . . page 6 ■ Join the ELDR Party Congress 2012 in Dublin ! . . . . . . . . . . . page 7
■ President’s Corner . . . . . . . . . page 12
More on page 5
Do you have an opinion on the EU’s energy policy ? What is the best way to move towards a low-carbon economy ? What’s your view on the energy transition challenge ? Have your say on www.eldrfocus.eu !
More on page 4
The Danish EU Presidency : interview with Sofie Carsten Nielsen The Danish EU Presidency focuses on a responsible, dynamic, green and safe Eu rope. Cou ld you outline one proposal which, for your par ty, is key to achieve these objectives ? The energy efficiency directive is a proposal combining the need for immediate and long-term
■ Facts and figures of the Danish EU Presidency . . . . . . . . . . . page 9
■ A liberal drink with Xavier Bettel . . . . . . . . . page 11
sions by 2050. What are the key elements in your report ? It makes plenty of suggestions for action across the board but strip my report down and there are just two messages that really matter.
Focus Year 2012 : Have your say !
■ The Danish EU Presidency : interview with Sofie Carsten Nielsen . . . . . . . . . . . page 8
■ How Slovakian liberals returned to Parliament . . . . . . . . . page 10
More on page 2
Interview: Chris Davies on Energy transition
■ Focus Year 2012 : Have your say on Energy transition ! . . . . . . . . . . . page 4
■ Interview with Chris Davies on Energy transition . . . . . . . . . . . page 5
there are a number of problems and threats that leave us nothing but the fear of yet another rigged election in our country.
A Liberal Drink with Xavier Bettel What or who motivated you to enter politics ? I always loved to participate in any form of politics. I organised my first petition and demonstration when I was aged just 9 : I mo-
tivated the children in my class to ask for a playground in our school and it worked ! I entered the Demokratesch Partei when I was 15.
More on page 11
growth with ambitions of making Europe the greenest and most climate-friendly region in the world. If we dare lead the green revolution, millions of new jobs in the energy, transport, manufacturing and other industries will be created in Europe – not in China or other fast growing economies.
More on page 8
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 2
Signs of hope in Armenia ?
There is currently a somewhat elusive political situation in Armenia. At a first glance it seems all political parties are being given relatively equal airtime on national TV channels and everything is going smoothly, but there are a number of problems and threats that leave us nothing but the fear of yet another rigged election in our country. The biggest threat the Armenian National Movement (ANM) and the Armenian people are now facing in the upcoming parliamentary elections on 6 May are the lists of registered voters published by the Armenian police recently. In September 1991, right before the devastating economic crisis and the escalation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, when Armenia was holding a referendum on independence, there were 2,163,967 voters in the country. Now, after 20 years of independence, during which the nation endured a number of economic and political hardships causing a wave of emigration, the Armenian police claim there are 2,485,844 registered voters in the country. This number is obviously exaggerated. Even the official results of the 2011 census confirm that the permanent population of Armenia is a little over 2.87 million. According to a government decision adopted in 2005 (N1231, July 2005), a citizen residing outside of Armenia for more than 6 months remains in the so-called population register and keeps his/her right to vote. Thus,
upon returning to the country the same citizen can restore her/his registration of permanent residence and be included in the additional list of voters. This legal act, however, has not been enforced and implemented and we therefore have thousands of absent people, even people who passed away long ago included in these lists. The government’s idea behind all this is to have these non-existant people magically vote for the ruling party, come Election Day. There is, however, a glimmer of hope that these elections may be different from the previous unsuccessful experiences as a number of political forces have now come together to form a public structure to supervise the election process. The process was initiated by the parliamentarian opposition parties ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) and Heritage Party. The biggest opposition alliance in the country, the Armenian National Congress (ANC, of which ANM is a core member) and the Prosperous Armenia Party, a member of the ruling coalition, later joined the initiative. The ruling Republican Party refused to fulfil its empty promises and take concrete steps thus did not join this format. This is a unique situation in Armenia’s history : political parties of various beliefs and ideologies, who at times have even been foes, have come together to ensure openness and fairness in the elections. If this structure is fully established in the near future
and all efforts are successfully combined to identify and prevent violations of the Electoral Code and problems alike, then there will be a realistic chance of preventing election fraud. Unfortunately, all other suggestions and recommendations made by the ANC, including the requirement for inking fingers and publishing lists of citizens not resident in the country (Armenian legislation does not allow participation in elections from abroad), were rejected by the authorities. In addition to this, the National Assembly adopted a new law on the State of Emergency, which practically allows the president to use military force in “maintaining order” during internal political disputes. This is highly unconstitutional, as the Armenian Constitution clearly states that the military is to be neutral in political issues and serve only to protect the external borders of the country. We believe this was done so rapidly and particularly right ahead of the upcoming elections, in order to instigate fear among the people and prevent protests and demonstrations should another rigged election occur. by Aram Manukyan, Leader of the Armenian National Movement
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 3
Europe’s interest in a prosperous Armenia I admit to having a secret passion for Armenia. My first visit was shortly after independence, in the chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As part of the first European Commission team that signed cooperation agreements with the newly independent states, I flew from Kazakhstan, via Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan to Armenia. Landing in Yerevan felt like Europe after the «Stans». I have since been back for politics and vacations, drank the waters in beautiful Jermuk and climbed my first peak above 4000m in Armenia. As a small southern Caucasian republic between Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran, Armenia rarely makes international headlines ; usually only if the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh heats up or another country recognises the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide. For Iranian tourists the country is the land of the free. Couples throw off the hijab and sip excellent Armenian wines, to get respite from the repression at home. However, for Armenian Liberals it has been a chequered situation. ELDR member party Armenian National Movement (ANM) played a crucial role in Armenia’s independence and gave Armenia its first President, Levon Ter-Petrossian (1991-98). However, much has changed since this glorious beginning. Following highly controversial and fraudulent Presidential elections in 2008, the opposition staged peaceful protests led by the ANM. Former President Levon Ter-Petrossian obtained 21.5% of the votes. In the run up to the elections there were several attacks against ANM offices and campaign rallies, as well as physical attacks at polling stations on Election Day. Following peaceful demonstrations contesting the results of the elections, the protests turned violent on 1 March 2008 when sleeping protesters were attacked and 8 demonstrators and 2 policemen were killed and hundreds injured. There has never been an independent investigation into the events and no one has been prosecuted for the killings. The timing of the ELDR Council in Yerevan is pertinent : it will take place only one week after the first national
elections since those dreadful events took place. Naturally, we hope all political eyes will be on these elections, on 6 May, to insist they must be free and fair. Nevertheless, democracy is of course more than elections. And here much work remains to be done, both in the field of political and economic freedoms. The former Armenian Foreign Minister, Vartan Oskanian, provided in May 2009 an astoundingly frank description of politics and economics in the region, discussing «fake elections» and arguing that «except for a brief period immediately after independence, our societies have not experienced governments who enjoy the consent of the governed». Referring specifically to Armenia, he wrote that «the firm, integrated personal networks of power centres in government and big business are a huge roadblock to the country’s development. Regardless of who is the country’s political leader, power continues to be shared among the business-government elite.» Armenia can at best be characterized as a “managed democracy”. Independent media and civil society organizations face a number of restrictions, including aggressive tax inspections, strict application of libel laws as well as physical attacks when exposing corruption and shady dealings. Vote buying for candidates and parties as well as pres-
sure on public servants to vote for certain parties remain common, too. This should stimulate all Armenians to take up their responsibility and be more active in fighting for democratic change. A recent poll conducted by the US National Democratic Institute found that only 12 percent of voters expect the upcoming elections to be democratic. Those who want to build democracy in Armenia must not stop short of promises but must start implementing change. Reform and real opportunity must be given to all and not be reserved for the few. As liberals we feel solidarity with all those fighting for freedom and prosperity and stand ready to support progressive forces of change in Armenia and elsewhere. In the face of momentous changes in the world such as the Arab Spring in the Middle East and the rise of the BRIC economies, it may be tempting to neglect developments in Europe’s smaller regional neighbours. I think this would be a mistake. We should help our Armenian friends seize the occasion and to shape the country they want to build and live, not just out of solidarity, but because it is in Europe’s own interest to be surrounded by stable, prosperous neighbours.
by Lousewies van der Laan, ELDR Party Vice President
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 4
Focus Year 2012 : Have your say on Energy transition ! Liberals have a long tradition of debate and are fundamentally open to different ideas and perspectives. This is what lies behind the Focus Year initiative launched by the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party in 2010. Our aim is to offer a European platform for debate on how to tackle, from a liberal perspective, some of the crucial issues for Europe’s future. The debates took place primarily on www. eldrfocus.eu and comprised a number of contributions from the local, national and European level. This year, our focus is on Energy transition. What does the current energy policy in Europe look like ? Where does the energy come from ? How will the future of energy consumption be shaped ? Energy is one of the key issues in the EU which concerns each Member State. So have your say : what’s your view on the EU energy transition challenge ?
Liberal views on energy “It is important to achieve energy self-sufficiency. In this respect nuclear power is not a separate part of the energy policy debate, but at this stage it is time to move to a discussion in which all forms of energy production targets are analysed and estimated at the same time. It should be possible to exploit more renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources enable a significant number of job opportunities. The availability of biomass should not be an obstacle for the use of renewable energy sources.” Riikka Manner MEP, Keskusta, Finland
“Many compromises need to be made by both ministers and the European Parliament. Now it is important that the support that the ministers have shown to the Presidency is transmitted to the negotiation table in Brussels with a higher level of ambition. We agreed that the ETS is the cornerstone in the strategy towards a low-emission European society in 2050” Martin Lidegaard, Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Radikale Venstre, Denmark
“We have to design our products in such a way that we use fewer resources and make it easier to regain the materials used. Innovation is extremely important. We all know the importance of rare earth metals, solar panels, wind turbines etc. and we won’t reach our renewable energy targets if we are totally dependent on rare earth. We have to find alternatives.” Gerben Jan Gerbrandy MEP, D66, the Netherlands
by Sir Graham Watson MEP, President of the ELDR Party
“The European Union and its Member States are already facing the challenges of energy supply, as well as the impact these will have on growth and the environment. Recent developments on the international scene and the political instability in some key regions in the world supplying energy to the European Union also need to be taken into account when further defining a common and realistic European energy strategy.” Antonyia Parvanova MEP, NMSP, Bulgaria
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 5
Interview with Chris Davies on Energy transition ponsibility and out of bounds for the EU. The ETS, on the hand, is an EU mechanism and one that we must continue to develop, especially as more and more countries around the world adopt similar cap-and-trade systems of their own. The major installations within the ETS are required to reduce their emissions by 1.74% every year and so far they have done even better than that. The problem we face is that the price of carbon allowances has fallen so low, with no real expectations at present of a dramatic mum term increase, that the incentive to invest in technology that emits less CO2 hardly exists. In March, the European Parliament supported your report on the European Commission’s «Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy», which sets a policy framework for the European Union to achieve an 80-95% reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2050. What are the key elements in your report ? It makes plenty of suggestions for action across the board but strip my report down and there are just two messages that really matter : endorsing the Roadmap and recognising that the Emissions Trading Scheme is not working as intended. In terms of the Roadmap, we must recognise that this says the EU must by 2030 reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels if it is to achieve its long term goal, and that this will in turn require a reduction of 25% by 2020. As far as the Emissions Trading Scheme goes there is an unanticipated surplus of carbon allowances that depresses prices and will not go away even if the economy picks up big time ; the European Commission must take measures to increase correct this imbalance. Although the Roadmap has the declared support in the Council of 26 Member States its formal endorsement has been opposed by Poland. Parliament’s strong support gives the Climate Action Commissioner the moral authority to bring forward specific proposals to reduce CO2 emissions as required, even in the absence of Council unanimity. Is furthering the ETS or taxation based on the polluter pays principle the answer ? Member States must take steps to reduce global warming emissions in ways that best suit their circumstances. Taxes are bound to be one of the tools they can use but they are a national res-
What about the role for renewables ? How can we prevent lack of electricity when the wind is not blowing and the sun not shining ? Don’t put all our eggs in one basket ! Varied sources of supply will provide the best security, although we can also develop better cross-border links so that electricity can be bought when local conditions affect domestic supplies from renewables. Until we can find effective ways of storing electricity on a large scale, heavy dependence on renewables will require back up from gas plants that can generate electricity at short notice. Of course, duplication like this comes at a price. Why do you believe the EU should be a front runner and go beyond the 2020 commitment of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions ? I’m frightened of the EU being left behind. Even though we do not yet have a binding international agreement to reduce emissions, the technology to do so is being developed and applied extensively. China is emitting more and more CO2 from its vast number of coal power stations, but it’s also installing more wind turbines than the whole of Europe and I believe that a high-tech, low-carbon strategy will be the way forward for many fast-growing economies. In the developed democracies of Europe, with our checks and balances and consultative planning arrangements, we are slow to get things done. If we don’t keep our eyes on the future, and direct our investment in that way too, we risk being overtaken by the next generation. Some believe that tighter targets could lead to “carbon leakage” – in other
words, the loss of business to third countries. How can we prevent this ? Are there specific sectors which would be most affected ? Let’s be clear, this is not an environment versus industry matter. There is no benefit to anyone in seeing energy-intensive industries relocating outside Europe, only to carry on emitting the same global warming gases that contribute to climate change - «exporting jobs and importing CO2» as one Commissioner used to describe it. I have no objection to special exemptions of one kind or another being granted where there is a proven risk of ‘carbon leakage’, but it really must be proven and not be based simply on special pleading by industries trying to avoid paying higher energy costs that affect everyone. I also think we should explore the idea of a border tax on goods from countries that are making no commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. Liberals believe in free trade but if we are to secure an international agreement to fight climate change Europe should be prepared to use the tools it has available to achieve the aim. It is hoped that by 2015, the EU will have achieved an energy single market for gas and electricity without boundaries and frontiers. Some say that this will come at a high cost. Is locally produced energy the future ? There are good environmental and economic arguments for a return to more local sources of energy production, and there are many examples that illustrate this in practice, but if we are to have low carbon electricity from fossil fuels using carbon, capture and storage technology, or from nuclear plants, we will still require transmission from large installations over long distances. The same will be true if one day we get solar electricity from the Sahara Desert. Chris Davies MEP is the ALDE Group’s Co-ordinator on the European Parliament’s environment committee, and was the Parliament’s rapporteur for the Commission’s proposed ‘Roadmap to a competitive low-carbon economy by 2050’.
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 6
ELDR Congress in Palermo elects new President Gathered in Palermo, Italy, the ELDR Party on Friday 18 November 2011 elected Sir Graham Watson (Liberal Democrats, UK) as its new President for the coming two years ! In his speech, drawing on great liberal thinkers from Adam Smith to Johan Norberg, Sir Graham made a strong case for the need of liberal thought in today’s Europe, and the central place for the ELDR Party in this process. He promised to make ELDR stronger, smarter and the suprana-
tional force in Europe. In his acceptance speech Sir Graham stated : «It is our job as Liberals to explain how we offer a real, principled and economically responsible alternative to the behemoths of conservatism and socialism. And as President of ELDR I intend to do just that.» The ELDR Party also elected five Vice Presidents. While Marc Guerrero (CDC, Catalonia), Lousewies van der Laan (D66,
The Netherlands) and Leoluca Orlando (IDV, Italy) were re-elected for another term ; Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP, Germany) and Astrid Thors (SFP, Finland) are new additions to the ELDR Party Bureau. The ELDR Congress also adopted a theme resolution on “A budget for Europe : liberal priorities for the EU budget 2014-2020.”
Past LI President Lord Alderdice, LI President Hans van Baalen and ALDE Leader Guy Verhofstadt
ELDR President Sir Graham Watson and Italia dei Valori leader Antonio di Pietro
Former Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Professor Pankaj Ghemawat
Congress in session
Former President Annemie Neyts Uyttebroeck launching the little Liberal Book
Candidates for the ELDR Bureau : Lousewies van der Laan, Astrid Thors, Kristiina Ojuland
Folk dance from Sicily
In memoriam : former ELDR President Viscount Willy De Clercq
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 7
Regional minister Jürgen Martens, ALDE Committee of the Regions leader Flo Clucas and ELDR President Sir Graham Watson
Vice President Leoluca Orlando with ANM leader Aram Manukyan and Levik Khachatryan
Treasurer Roman Jakic and former Secretary General Lex Corijn with ELDR secretariat member Eva Felgueroso who sadly passed away in December 2011
Ready for the Bureau elections
Congress in session
Democratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyannis and MEP Olle Schmidt
ELDR Vice President Vesna Pusic, Croatia’s Foreign Minister
Join the ELDR Party Congress 2012 in Dublin ! Dublin, irelanD 8-10 november 2012
Dublin, irelanD 8-10 november 2012
The Congress of the ELDR is the number one event for European Liberal Democrats who want to adopt policies, net work and debate in the
European context. The 2012 Congress will take place in Dublin on 8 -10 November. The main theme this year will be a liberal roadmap for ener-
gy transition in Europe. In addition to debates on this issue, there will be a fringe programme catering for a broad range of interests, as well as exclusive sessions for parliamentarians. Join the 500 European Liberal Democrat ministers, party leaders, Commissioners, national and European parliamentarians, local councillors, Associate members and party activists and have your say on European policy making ! More info : email@example.com or +32.2.2370140
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 8
The Danish EU Presidency : interview with Sofie Carsten Nielsen The energy efficiency directive is a proposal combining the need for immediate and long-term growth with ambitions of making Europe the greenest and most climate-friendly region in the world. If we dare lead the green revolution, millions of new jobs in the energy, transport, manufacturing and other industries will be created in Europe – not in China or other fast growing economies. A very important side effect is that we will become independent of energy imports from authoritarian regimes and fragile semi-democracies.
Since Denmark assumed the Presidency at a time when the EU is facing perhaps its greatest challenge ever, and following the EU Summit of 8–9 December 2011, which decided upon a number of very important decisions to stabilise the euro, including the intergovernmental agreement on a “fiscal compact”, what role is there for Denmark’s EU Presidency ? The Danish EU presidency has an important role to play at a time when dividing lines have been drawn between euro and non-euro member states as well as between fiscal compact member and non-member countries. As a small country, Denmark has the possibility to step into the role of a neutral broker, who can push the important agenda on economic recovery forward and try to reach effective, efficient and implementable solutions. The Danish EU Presidency focuses on a responsible, dynamic, green and safe Europe. Could you outline a proposal which, for your party, is key to achieve these objectives ?
(note from the editor: Danish Environment Minister Martin Lidegaard of Radikale Venstre is chairing the debate on the energy efficiency directive in the EU’s council of ministers.)
The negotiations for the EU budget 2014-2020, the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework, are ongoing. For Denmark, what should ideally be the political outcome of these negotiations ? It is not realistic that the negotiations on the MFF will be concluded during the Danish presidency. On the other hand, we wish to advance them as much as possible while making sure that the MFF supports the goals set in the Europe 2020 strategy. Denmark is a country renowned for its success in renewable energy and its creation of growth without increased resource and energy consumption. How does the Presidency go about achieving the same at the EU level ? As I have mentioned above, the energy efficiency directive is one step on the road towards making Europe independent of fossil
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fuels. But many more initiatives need to be taken, agreed upon and implemented. It is no secret that Denmark would have very much liked to see the Low-Carbon Roadmap 2050 adopted. The same goes for a green and climate friendly Energy Roadmap 2050. Only by thinking in completely new ways and by daring to set ambitious goals will Europe get long term and sustainable growth. Finally, in the early 1990s Denmark negotiated four opt-outs on EU policies : defence, justice and home affairs, the euro and union citizenship. In recent years, the rest of the EU has developed substantial policies in these areas. Does the Danish government intend to opt-in on some of these policies ? The Danish government, which assumed power in October last year, has promised to put two opt-outs to a referendum : the one on the common security and defence policy as well as the opt-out on justice and home affairs. Regarding the latter, the Danish government wishes to transform the opt-out into an opt-in – parallel to the British model. The pro-European opposition parties fully support this referendum model. At the moment, a referendum on the euro opt-out would surely result in an overwhelming “no”. But there need not be any doubt that my party and I personally deeply wish for Danish euro participation in the future. Sofie Carsten Nielsen MP is EU affairs spokesperson for ELDR member Radikale Venstre
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BULLETIN â€“ First issue | 2012 | Page 9
Facts and figures of the Danish EU Presidency
A budget for Europe One of the priorities of the Danish Presidency is working to ensure a responsible European economy. Europe must be brought out of the crisis, a new crisis must be prevented and the focus must be put on strengthening growth and job creation. All EU Member States must implement the necessary measures to consolidate public finances and carry out the necessary reforms. This is a precondition for restoring market confidence in the European economies, for getting out of the crisis, and for embarking on the path to growth. We will also enhance supervision and regulation of the financial sector for the purpose of preventing financial crises in the future
Energy savings The Danish Presidency will set a proactive agenda for promoting green and sustainable growth. The aim is to create growth without increased resource and energy consumption. And it can be done. In recent years the EU has developed an ambitious energy and climate policy, which means that the EU is taking the lead at global level. New initiatives will be made to maintain this position. A key objective will be to adopt measures improving re-
source and energy efficiency in Europe. Furthermore, energy, climate and environmental considerations will be integrated in more EU policies.
Single market In order to get out of the crisis, it is also crucial to create revitalised growth and employment in Europe. The Single Market is one of the greatest EU successes. The Single Market is, among other things, to be brought into the digital age by making it easier and safer to trade on-line and by lowering roaming prices across borders. As part of the further development of the Single Market, we must at the same time secure respect for employeesâ€™ rights by ensuring that rules regarding pay and working conditions are complied with.
External relations As new global powers are emerging there is a need for a stronger joint approach by European countries to take a unified role on the global scene. The Lisbon Treaty has provided the EU with a valuable new basis for achieving increased global influence through the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and a
Common European External Action service. With respect to enlargement, the Danish Presidency will continue a policy based on own merits as a basis for progress in the negotiations. The European Neighbourhood Policy is an important tool to ensure good and lasting relations with the EUâ€™s neighbouring countries.
Connecting Europe The Danish Presidency sees efficient transEuropean infrastructures as fundamental for the smooth operation of the single market, the mobility of persons and goods, and the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU. Therefore the negotiations on the Connecting Europe Facility and revision of sectoral guidelines will be an important issue to the benefit of well-functioning transport, energy and ICT networks across the EU. The proposals to build the roads, railways, energy grids and pipelines, as well as broadband networks of importance to citizens and businesses, will generate growth and jobs and at the same time make work and travel easier in Europe.
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 10
How Slovakian liberals returned to Parliament vote on the government), all parliamentary parties including the opposition agreed to hold new general elections on 10 March 2012. Robert Fico’s party, SMER - the social democrats -, scored over 44% of the votes cast thus gaining an 83-seat majority in the national parliament of 150 MPs. He became the Prime Minister-elect and started forming his cabinet right after the elections. It is only the second time in Slovak modern history that one party has been able to form a government. Fico’s key message in the campaign was to provide citizens with social certainties at a time of global crisis.
The Slovak Freedom & Solidarity party (SaS), a member of ELDR, gained 5.88% in the recent March 2012 early general elections in Slovakia. Although this result is disappointing in comparison with the 12.14% gained in 2010, the result itself makes SaS the first liberal party in Slovakia to repeatedly win seats in the national parliament. SaS’ current ambition is to «grow up» in the four years ahead of being in the opposition and to build a solid liberal party, which should tip the balance between the socialists and the conservatives in the future.
The main themes of the elections included unemployment, corruption, and the decreasing standard of living and social security. The entire campaign was dubbed as «the dirtiest» ever, marked with several real and some fabricated eavesdropping and corruption scandals. To many analysts’ surprise, these events decimated mainly the centre-right parties of the former government and, despite the fact that the scandals concerned all relevant political parties, the social democrats seemed to have fared much better than the rest of the political spectrum.
After the four party coalition government in October 2011 dissolved (an event caused by the then Prime Minister Radicova’s linking of the vote on the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) with a confidence
The Christian Democrats (KDH) scored over 8%, followed by a new party called Ordinary People with approximately 8% of the votes. Most - Hid (a bi-ethnic SlovakHungarian party) managed to gain 7% of
the vote. The last two parties to make it to the Parliament were SDKU-DS (party of the former two-time Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda) with 6% and the Liberals (SaS) with almost 6% of the vote. SaS’ weaker performance in these elections can be attributed mainly to the following factors : the absence of functional and well-manned regional structures, a loss of the newcomer status, the disappointment of voters with insufficient delivery on the 2010 election vows (for example the overhaul of the social security system, decriminalisation of cannabis and the promotion of same-sex marriage, etc.) and also to several political mistakes made by the leaders, which further undermined the trust of their non-core electorate. In the 20 months as part of the governing coalition, SaS became a party of the educated, middle-to-high income citizens and Slovaks who do not trust the massive European bailout mechanisms. In comparison with the 2010 elections, the distribution of their votes came predominantly from the bigger cities. Encouragingly, SaS ended up as the second party in the capital Bratislava, scoring almost 15%.
by Juraj Droba MP, Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Head of Foreign Relations, SaS, Slovakia
The new ELDR bulletin ! You probably noticed the new format and style of the ELDR BULLETIN. Three times a year, we’ll deliver news and insights from the European liberal family. We hope you like the new format and don’t hesitate to give us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 11
A liberal drink with Xavier Bettel Where do you stand on the political spectrum ? I consider my wallet on the right side and my heart on the left. I am in favour of social politics as an elevator to get out of a weak situation and not stay in that situation. Also, I’m in favour of legislation for the right to legal abortion and euthanasia as well as gay weddings. What is your favourite quote ? Carpe Diem What or who motivated you to enter politics ? I always loved to participate in any form of politics. I organised my first petition and demonstration when I was aged just 9 : I motivated the children in my class to ask for a playground in our school and it worked ! I entered the Demokratesch Partei when I was 15. Do you remember the first ever international liberal event in which you participated ? That was back in the late 1980s in Gummersbach, Germany (ndlr : Theodor Heuss Akademie of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for liberty) for a LYMEC seminar. The first time I participated in an ELDR event was at the 1995 Congress in Stockholm, Sweden.
A cup filled half-way is… …still not full ! The best example of government waste is… How many pages do I have ? ;-) How do you feel about freedom of speech in Europe ? In the 27 EU member states I believe the situation is fine, but we should not forget that just around the corner that is not the case anymore. The most convincing evidence that brainwashing exists in Europe is the fact that some truly believe… That voting extremes would help.
What should be the highest law in Europe ? Human rights What are the greatest books of all time ? The liberal manifesto for sure… lol. Can’t figure one out, depends of my mood. Three best things in life… My partner, my family, my friends What do you fear ? Snakes and extremes Do you remember the last time you danced ? Last month ! What is your favourite restaurant in Luxembourg ? Simply Thai, which is close to our house. Have you ever read the Communist Manifesto ? I don’t even think about it !
Xavier Bettel is Mayor of Luxembourg, and parliamentary group leader of ELDR member Demokratesch Partei
Liberal Movers and Shakers
In March, Rebecca Taylor (Liberal Democrat, UK) became new Lib Dem MEP for the region of Yorkshire and the Humber in England, following the resignation of Diana Wallis earlier this year.
Long time ELDR Congress delegate Michael Link became Germany’s new Minister for European affairs, following the appointment of Dr. Werner Hoyer as President of the European Investment Bank.
Former Minister of Defence Jozo Radoš MP (HNS, Croatia) became the first liberal observer MEP from Croatia, following the signing of Croatia’s EU accession treaty.
Phil Bennion (Liberal Democrat UK) succeeded Liz Lynne as MEP for the electoral region of the WestMidlands. Bennion is a member of the EP employment and social affairs committee.
BULLETIN – First issue | 2012 | Page 12
President’s corner Commission to use Article 7 of the EU treaties, which allows for EU countries that flout EU values to be punished. The Commission has promised to use all its powers to stop what is happening in Hungary.
great step forward. The European Parliament also adopted a report supporting the Commission’s 2050 roadmap to a low carbon economy, which was steered through the Parliament by Liberal Chris Davies MEP.
Anti Counterfeiting Trade Cutting costs, saving money Agreement controversy and countering inequalities in a liberal way It is a truth universally acknowledged that difficult times call for radical solutions and the first few months of 2012 have been no exception in EU politics.
This year has also marked a controversy about the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which has caused real concern within the online community in particular.
European unity in the face of Eurozone crisis
I have received over 4,000 emails about it in my constituency office. For me, it’s not ACTA’s goal which should worry liberals like ourselves, but rather possible unintended consequences of the way it might be implemented, such as denial of Internet access to citizens who breach its provisions.
There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges for the EU at the moment is maintaining a sense of solidarity between its members while faced with the Euro crisis. The European Stability Mechanism, set up earlier this year, is of course key to recovery. However, experience from the 1930s teaches us that it must be accompanied by measures to stimulate growth and provide jobs. I think it is never wise to write current economic fashion into treaties - economic circumstances can change.
Playing fast and loose with democracy in Hungary Difficult times however also sometimes provide an excuse for some leaders to override a country’s democratic foundations. Hungary is a case in point, where the EPP-affiliated Fidesz party has attempted to use its parliamentary supermajority to expand its influence over the country’s judicial system, central bank and media. This is a serious breach of the independence of these institutions, which are a core part of democratic governance, sound economic policy and free speech. The Liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament has called on the European
New Parliament President January saw the election of a new European Parliament president. Unfortunately this was not much of a celebration of democracy but rather a EPP and S&D stitch up resulting in the election of a German Socialist, Martin Schulz. My fellow UK Liberal Democrat Diana Wallis put up a spirited fight but came in third, one vote behind a maverick UK Conservative. Nevertheless the two of them took over 40% of the votes cast, denying the victor the substantial majority he would have liked. Liberals succeeded in electing two Vice-Presidents, Edward McMillan Scott from the UK and Alexander Alvaro from Germany.
Taking the climate change threat seriously
Liberals called on the European Commission to investigate ways of halving the amount of food thrown away as waste by 2025. A recent survey has shown that as much as €72 billion could be saved and 400,000 jobs created if an attempt was made to cut down on food waste. Liberals have yet again been at the forefront of the call for a single seat for the European Parliament which would save a fair amount of money. Frustratingly, MEPs are not masters of our own fates on this - the decision as to where Parliament sits lies with the 27 governments - but we are gaining more and more support within the European Parliament, making the two seat arrangement ever more untenable. Finally, Liberals have remained faithful to the cause of gender equality by supporting the Commission’s proposal to legislate for quotas for women on company boards (30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020) and called for quotas to increase their representation in parliaments. Liberals have also set an EU-wide goal to reduce the pay gap between men and women by 10%. I am taking steps to revive the European Liberal Women’s Network to involve more people in such campaigns. by Sir Graham Watson MEP, President of the ELDR Party
The European Commission has published a working paper saying that a 30% cut in carbon emissions is ‘feasible, beneficial and much cheaper than previously thought’ - a
Calendar - upcoming events ELDR Party Council in Yerevan, Armenia, 11 May 2012 ELF Roundtable “Energy security for Europe - liberal perspectives”, Yerevan, Armenia 12 May 2012
Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, aisbl
Rue Montoyerstraat 31, 1000 Brussels Tel. 02 237 01 44 - Fax 02 231 19 07
Congress Svenska Folkpartiet in Karleby, Finland, 8-10 June 2012
Editor : Daniel Tanahatoe, ELDR
Congress Suomen Keskusta in Rovaniemi, Finland, 8-10 June 2012
Publisher : Didrik de Schaetzen, ELDR
VVD Congress in The Hague, The Netherlands, 22-23 June 2012
Lay-out and printing : Trinome.be
Prime Ministers lunch, Brussels, Belgium, 28 June 2012
With support of the European Parliament