NEWS8 February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
European Liberal Democrats
The European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR Party) brings together 57 political parties with common liberal, democratic and reform ideals and is the forum for member parties to develop co-ordinated policies.
Contents Page 2 SPECIAL FOCUS YEAR . . 〜 WHAT is the EU budget – WHERE does the money come from – HOW is it spent 〜 To bail-out or not to bailout? 〜 ALDE in the European Parliament launches initial position paper on EU Budget post 2013
Reforming Europe – Refining the EU budget! European Liberals on track for brighter financial future As I announced at last years’ Congress in Helsinki, ELDR will focus in 2011 on the financial future of the EU. Under the title “Refining the EU Budget – Reforming Europe” we want to launch an in depth debate on the so called Multi Annual Financial Framework for the period 2014 – 2020 and on the EU budget proper. We want to look both at the income and at the expenditure side of the budget. We have the ambition to design liberal solutions in view of our next Congress which will take place in November in Rome.
Page 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 〜 ELDR launches Associate membership for individuals: 〜 Our bureau members’ goals
The ELDR focus website has been launched, which we hope many readers will contribute to: www.eldrfocus.eu
Page 4 SPecial enlargement 〜 Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area? 〜 Belarus: “My vain request to visit the prisoners” 〜 Belgrade to become European Capital of Culture
As important orientations will be defined in June and July by the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, we should be able to present our first proposals at around the same time. Therefore, I invite you urgently to share with the European Liberal Community your views on the financial future of the Union.
Page 5 SPecial enlargement 〜 Moldova on the path of the EU accession 〜 Interview with Pat The Cope Gallagher 〜 An inside perspective on Turkey-EU relations Page 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 〜 ELDR involving citizens in the European political sphere 〜 Interview with Niccolo’ Rinaldi, MEP (Italia dei Valori) 〜 What could a post-national Europe be like? Page 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 〜 Advancing Europe-wide patients rights 〜 Swedish parental leave system – a model for Europe? 〜 Fianna Fail elects new leader ahead of general election Page 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 〜 A liberal drink… with Werner Hoyer 〜 ELDR Council in Dresden, Germany on 20-21 May 2011
Are the present modes of financing the EU satisfactory, or should the EU gain better access to own financial means, and if so,
how? How do you view the introduction of so called Eurobonds? Do you feel that the EU should remain bound to contributions from member states, and do you believe these are sufficient? On the expenditure side, do you believe that the situation is satisfactory or should an in depth review of the current expenditure be launched? Do you want to keep Common Agricultural Policy untouched, or do you want to reduce spending, (and how do you propose telling your farmers?) Must all EU institutions and advisory bodies remain untouched, or could we contemplate to abolish some of them? Do you feel the present financial priorities are the right ones, or would you like to see changes, and if so, which ones? These are but a few of the many, many questions that arise when one considers the financial future of the Union. Please don’t hesitate to let your views be known and please do contribute to this major debate.
〜 by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck ELDR President
Turmoil in the Arab world: what does it teach us? Many of us have known for quite a while that both the Tunisian and the Egyptian regimes had considerably hardened and toughened. Because their presidents were our political allies, and because they portrayed themselves as ramparts against islamist extremists and/or terrorists, the EU and its member states didn’t make too much noise about the human rights abuses, the wide spread corruption, the systematically rigged elections, etc. For the sake of stability, it was accepted that their presidents stayed in office for over twenty or thirty years. Almost everywhere else, this is unthinkable. I suspect that another, more insidious, element has also played, namely the prejudice that Islam and democracy are
fundamentally incompatible or, even worse, that Arab societies are somehow unable to function in democratic fashion and that it is therefore futile to expect them to become more democratic. As I write this, the situation in Egypt is unclear while Tunisia seems to be heading towards elections. In both countries, political parties, if existing at all, are understandably very weak. They will need lots of support and help to prepare for a democratic future. Liberal International, ELDR and the liberal foundations should participate in this effort.
〜 by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck ELDR President
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
ELDR Focus year on EU budget A dummies’ guide
WHAT is the EU budget – WHERE does the money come from – HOW is it spent Politics of money ain’t being easy! The overall economic situation in Europe and the future of the € currency provide a challenge to European citizens and policy makers. Europe is debating the future of its currency, how to prevent debt crisis
Liberal Democrats across Europe - in the European Parliament, national governments and the European Commission - prepare the EU for a prosperous future with a stable financial architecture and a budget that will make the EU fit for the challenges of the 21st Century.
and how to strengthen the stability and growth pact, the backbone of the monetary union. Amidst these crucial discussions, the EU prepares for the budget debate. The annual budget of the European Union is based on the so called multiannual
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Liberal EU’s commissioner for research, innovation and science – Ireland -
Androulla Vassiliou, Liberal EU’s Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth
financial framework agreed between the European parliament, the member states and the European commission.
Party provides for a platform to debate the liberal priorities how to spend money more intelligently and to rethink the European system of getting its financial resources.
The European Commission is expected to issue detailed proposals for the next financial period 2014-2020 by June 2011 following the agreement of EU member states at EU summit meeting in December 2009. The European Parliament established a «Special Committee on Policy Challenges and Budgetary Resources for a Sustainable European Union after 2013». In July 2010 it has been given a one year mandate to define the Parliament’s political priorities for the new post-2013 multiannual financial framework. Liberal MEPs Anne E. Jensen and Carl Haglund as the committee’s vice-chair and the liberal group’s coordinator play a decisive role in the committee’s work. Therefore, by summer 2011 the major negotiations on the future spending of the European Union will kick start. European Liberals are particularly conscious about the use of taxpayers’ money. This is why this focus year platform of the ELDR
To bail-out or not to bail-out?
How and by whom do European Liberals want the EU to be financed? • What should be the Member States’ contributions and what resources should be directly generated by the EU? • Does this mean that the EU needs to introduce a direct EU tax? • Can the EU continue to give varying discounts for some Member States’ contributions? But does the EU also need to revise its spending – or is it in fact more European funds that are needed to counter the crisis? And where does the EU have to set its spending priorities?
Would you like to join the debate and shape the liberal position? Contribute to this website by posting your comments or questions as well as by submitting your own or your party’s opinion or analysis on any of those above mentioned or related issues. www.eldrfocus.eu or contact Joakim Frantz in the ELDR secretariat, tel: +32 2 5510161, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Agriculture subsidies? • The creation of an EU army? • Education? • Research and innovation? • To balance unequal economic developments between the EU member states? If you are interested in more details on the present composition of the EU’s budget; consult the website of the European Commission.
EU financial assistance explained To bail-out or not to bail-out? This was the question that European and national politicians were debating last year ahead of the European Union (EU) /International Monetary Fund (IMF) package of financial assistance that was agreed to help Greece overcome its debt crisis and then again at the end of last year when Ireland become the second Member State to seek such support. Once it was confirmed that financial assistance should be provided the next issue was where to find the, not insignificant, sums needed and how to plan for the future to prevent further crises from occurring. Sharon Bowles MEP, LibDems, UK, (in the picture) chair of the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee shed’s some light on the measures taken in the wake of the Greek crisis. “At the time of the Greek debt crisis, the EU put in place TWO lifelines, the European Financial Stability Mechanism and the European Financial Stability Facility. The first of these, the Mechanism, is a € 60bn pot that is funded from the EU budget. A smaller fund of this type has always existed to help non-Eurozone countries, in particular newer Member States, which get into difficulties through no fault of their own.
Latest developments The European Financial Stability Mechanism and the European Financial Stability Facility will remain in place until June 2013 when they will be replaced by a permanent crisis mechanism, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Agreement on implementing this mechanism was reached at last December’s meeting of the European Council.
Sharon Bowles MEP
The second pot, the Facility, is much larger at € 440bn and is not an EU project as such. Potentially, not least due to its size, it would have infringed the ‘no bail out’ terms for the Euro, and also required a long time to put in place. The Facility consists of a series of bilateral loans from Eurozone countries that have been pooled into a special purpose fund set up in Luxembourg. Linked to this fund is also an understanding of a further € 220bn that will be made available from the IMF. The Facility is now available to be tapped and can pay out within five days of receiving a request. In the event of large or multiple rescues, this is the fund that will have to come into play”.
At the ELDR lunch summit ahead of December’s Council meeting liberal leaders were clear in their support for this approach with Finnish Prime Minister, Mari Kiviniemi commenting “there is a necessity for the mechanism and it will provide a clear system for strictly conditional liquidity assistance to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole”. The ESM will be able to provide financial assistance packages to euro area Member States under strict conditions and will operate in parallel with the new framework of economic governance, which will substantially reduce the risk of another crisis in the future while bringing stability to Europe’s financial markets.
ALDE in the European Parliament launches initial position paper on EU Budget post 2013 At the beginning of January, the liberal Group in the EP launched its first position paper on the issues that will be discussed in the ELDR Focus Year 2011: the liberal priorities for the EU Budget over the coming six-year period, set to enter into force in 2014. This position paper outlines the basic ins and outs of this structure, and thus places this mechanism into its appropriate historical context; presents the basic arguments on the size of the EU budget; revisits the discussion on net contributors and recipients and discusses the synergies between national budgets and that of the EU. Obviously, it also sums up by giving ALDE’s initial points of view on this issue, pending further clarification and draft proposals from the European Commission, which are expected by June 2011 (cf. article ELDR Dummies Guide on this page). Inter alia, these comprise demands for: •A need for significant re-allocations within the EU budget to cater for additional demands from the Lisbon Treaty as well as match the ambitions set out in the EU’s priority areas, such as the EU 2020 Strategy for growth and jobs. •A n oversight of both the internal efficiency (for instance, the EU Parliament should convene only in Brussels and there could be reason to look at the added value of existing EU institutions) as well as a need for a larger flexibility to the six-year EU Budget, to allow for unforeseen reactions along the way as well as an added use of joint EU solutions which ensures an efficient synergy between EU and national budgets •A return to the initial method of funding EU policies through own resources, as well as the abolishment of all existing rebates in the EU budget. This interesting position paper can be accessed on www.eldrfocus.eu as well as www.alde.eu.
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
ELDR launches the Associate membership for individuals The ELDR Party has taken a significant step forward towards citizens’ participation at EU level by launching associate membership of the ELDR Party for individuals. “Direct participation is all about nourishing the quality of future democracy. And with this initiative ELDR would like to add flesh to the bones to what was introduced in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty: the European citizenship” commented Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, President of the ELDR Party. “Associate Membership for individuals – Neyts-Uyttebroeck added - is a sign of
support to the European liberal values of freedom and individual responsibility, democracy and the rule of law, respect for human rights and tolerance”. Our Associate membership is open to any European under the following conditions: • Adhere to the statutes of the ELDR Party as well as to the fundamental values as expressed in the founding document of the ELDR Party, the “Stuttgart Declaration”. • Not being a member of any national political party that itself belongs to any other European political party other than the ELDR Party. • Pay a membership fee of 25€.
There is an evident distinction in comparison to the individual membership of the European Socialists and People’s Party. ELDR in fact gives the possibility to sign up for membership not only to those already member of a national political party, but also to individuals not necessarily linked to political parties. The launch of Associate membership for individuals is unquestionably another step in the continuing development of the ELDR Party from a network of liberal parties into a fully fledged European political party. Once there will be truly pan-European election campaigns and European can-
didates in the elections for the European Parliament, ELDR will be ready to involve its associate members in our election campaign activities. Membership will give you: 1) An Associate membership card, 2) Home delivery of the quarterly ELDR newspaper, 3) The ELDR electronic newsletter. 4) Personalised invitations for selected events.
Furthermore, associate members will be able to participate and be a candidate in online elections that will select the delegate(s) representing associate members at the yearly ELDR Congress.
Marc Guerrero I Tarragó
Born in Barcelona. Married with one child. - PhD “Cum Laude” in Social Sciences. Thesis on Foreign Affairs and B.A in Business Politics, he is now ELDR Party Vice president; National Board Member of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC); Patron and Head of the International Relations Dept. of CatDem Foundation and he is Board Member of the European Catalan Movement.
Spokesman for development policy of the FDP group in the German federal parliament from 2002 to 2005 and for European affairs from 2005 to 2009. Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid of the German government since 2010. ELDR vice president since 2005.
Member of the Italian Parliament Spokesperson of the Italia dei Valori Party; MEP and President of the Parliamentary Commission of inquiry in sanity field in the Italian Parliament. Former Mayor of Palermo, former MEP and member of Sicilian Regional Parliament.
If we stand united as Europeans we will be able to convince others in this world that human rights, democracy, rule of law and market economy are the very core of personal freedom and that they are worth fighting for. Convincing our own people to follow a path towards a highly integrated Europe leading up to the United States of Europe. We have more in common than we usually think and we will need to stand together to face the challenges of a changing world. These are the goals I am working towards.
I want to contribute to strengthening liberal values and social attention through an extension of the ELDR party’s membership, across Europe and especially in the Mediterranean area.
Vesna Pusić is parliamentary floor leader of HNS and a Chairwoman of the National Committee for Monitoring the EU Accession Negotiations, the parliamentary body in charge of overseeing the entire process of Croatian EU accession. She has been a member of the Croatian Parliament since 2001.She is a chairwoman of LIBSEEN - Network of South-East European Liberals, ELWN - European Liberal Women Network and vice-president of ELDR.
Priorities I want to promote liberal values and strengthen liberal political parties, especially in places where we have more difficulties such as Southern and Central Europe. Gain European public space influence through higher visibility in media and new IT tools. Increase the coordination between the European liberal family (ELDR Party, ALDE Groups in European institutions, ELF). Increase knowledge of the ELDR party among member parties, develop the individual membership and therefore to make ELDR stronger in «all senses».
OUR BUREAU MEMBERS’ GOALS Dick Roche Dick Roche, TD: Irish Minister for European Affairs since 2007, as well as from 2002 to 2004. Between 2004 and 2007, he served as Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. As Minister for European Affairs, 2002 – 2004, Dick was responsible for the Nice II Referendum Campaign, for the preparation of Ireland’s much acclaimed European Union Presidency and led Ireland’s delegation at the Convention on the Future of Europe. Dick was a leading member of the Irish Government’s highly successful 2009 Lisbon Treaty Referendum Campaign.
Priorities I believe that there is a real opportunity for the ELDR to play a pivotal role in the development of a stronger, more democratic Europe. The parties within the ELDR represent a huge and diverse range of political talent. I believe that by bringing together the widest range of political experience within the Bureau, the ELDR can play a crucial role in charting the way forward for the European Union. I believe member parties need to work together, sharing ideas and experiences to achieve Liberal solutions to meet our current challenges. I am anxious to play an active role to realise this, and to bring Liberals to the forefront of politics at a regional, national and European level.
Priorities My focus inside the ELDR Bureau is South Eastern Europe, where I hope to contribute to Europeanization and liberalisation of all countries in the region and work on its stable and progressive development. My aim is to create a platform for exchange of economic and political solutions for actual problems and obstacles, similar in all of the neighbouring states, and mutual support for the EU accession of all countries in South Eastern Europe.
Annemie Neyts, MEP (Open Vld, Belgium) ELDR party President (September 2005 to present). She belongs to the ALDE Parliamentary Group since 2004, for which she coordinates the fields of foreign affairs. Minister, deputy for Foreign Affairs, in charge of European Affairs, International Trade and Agriculture, 2001-2003; President of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of representatives, 2003-2004. She is former president of the Liberal International (1999-2005).
One priority for me is the support to our member parties to strengthen their party work and organization capacities through various schemes. Based on our successful Prime Ministerial meetings and press conferences, we intend to broaden such meetings to the ministerial level to further discuss and coordinate liberal policies. In 2011 individual citizens will have the opportunity to join the ELDR party as associate members. This is a further step in the development of ELDR as a true political party, and I hope to contribute with making this as good as possible, thereby widening and deepening the European liberal Lousewies van der Laan family. I also intend to use my last year as ELDR President to assess the state of democracy in Originally trained as a Roman Jakic Europe – and find successful liberal solutions lawyer, Lousewies van der to improve it. Laan is currently chef de After (re)founding (in late cabinet of the President of 80’s) the Slovenia Student the International Criminal organisation, he was first Court in The Hague. After a elected to the National distinguished career in the EU, she was elected Parliament in the first free Graham Watson to the European Parliament and subsequently and democratic elections the Dutch Parliament, where she became leain 1990. He served 15 years in national parGraham Watson has serder of the Dutch Democratic Party D66. She is liament (as head of delegation to the Parliaved in the European Para passionate environmentalist and activist for mentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, liament since 1994. human rights and justice. Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee, EU-SLO He cut his political teeth Joint Parliamentary Committee as well one with the Scottish Young mandate as MEP). He is currently a Councillor Liberals and the InternaPriorities of the City of Ljubljana, where he is chairing tional Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY) of As one of the few Bureau members not in the Foreign Affairs Committee. which he was General Secretary from 1979 professional politics, I try to keep our activities -81. He served from 1983 - 1987 as Head of grounded to the daily concerns of our voters. the Private Office of UK Liberal leader, Sir David One of my key assets as a national MP was Priorities (now Lord) Steel. having a broad European network to check back As Treasurer and Chairman of the Steering Leader of the Liberal Group in the European with, making it impossible for the government Committee my first priority is to keep the Parliament from 2002 - 2009. He is currently to blame “Europe” for its own policies. I feel ELDR finances in balance as well as to find toa member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, this is where the ELDR can have a real added gether with the help of the Secretary General, Chair of the India Delegation and Chair of the value: giving our national and local liberals administrative staff, Bureau members and Global Climate Parliament Initiative. the contacts and know-how to give them real member parties, ways to increase income impact to serve their voters. Last year D66 and rationalise the spendings. seminar in Rotterdam on youth unemployment Secondly I would like to be helpful with my Priorities was a great example, because we shared expolitical experience in the topics that concern I hope to contribute to building the strength of periences as well as business cards. In addition Central and Eastern parts of Europe, espeEurope’s liberal family through an extension we need to keep supporting our liberal friends cially to help those member parties that of the ELDR party’s membership, both in the in Eastern and central Europe, who are under are defending the path of their respective member party and the individual member huge political pressure. countries to join the EU. categories.
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
EU EnlargEment Interview with Renate Weber PNL/Romanian MEP (ALDE)
Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area? Schengen Agreement The Schengen Agreement, signed in 1985, allows more than 400 million citizens to travel without border checks within the so called Schengen Area. There is no passport and customs control on the interior borders of the Schengen countries. Now the area comprises 22 of 27 EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Cyprus, Great Britain and Ireland are not in the Visa Free zone and have separate entry requirements.
1. In December 2010 the French and German Interior Ministers sent a letter to Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, announcing that Romanian and Bulgarian accession to the Schengen Area would be “premature”. Mrs Weber, what do you think is behind this firm opposition of Paris and Berlin? The French government started to send messages about opposing the accession of the two countries quite some time ago. The most credible explanation relates to
French internal politics. This is in line with the attitude against Roma - showing the French people that it is a strong government which cares about the safety of its citizens and therefore does not want to take risks admitting new countries into the Schengen space. And because they could not prevent Schengen accession because of their internal problems they first invoked the verification and cooperation mechanism, mentioning that two countries still have problems in the field of combating corruption and in the field of reforming the justice system. The reality is that the two countries still have problems, but this has nothing to do with accession into Schengen area because in this respect only technical aspects should be the basis of a decision - a position that was expressed several times by the European Commission. 2. How do you think the EU and its existing joint bodies in the field of
Interview with Markus Löning, ELDR vice-President (FDP, Germany), Human Rights Commissioner for the Federal Republic of Germany
Belarus: My vain request to visit the prisoners
On 14 and 15 January I visited Belarus. Making a clear statement to the Belarusian Government that the German Government expects the release of everybody imprisoned in the aftermath of the events on 19 December 2010 and that relatives, doctors and lawyers must be granted immediate access. I did not even get an answer to my request to see some of the people that had been jailed. This meeting with government officials was one of the most frustrating meetings I ever had - no answers, no information, not even good excuses. Speaking to some of the former opposition candidates and to relatives of those still in jail was heartbreaking. But to them it meant a lot that Europe has not forgotten them. There seemed to be hope for something different in the months ahead of December’s presidential elections in Belarus. The candidates challenging incumbent president Alexander Lukachenko were able to campaign in the cities and villages of Belarus. Each of them collected more than 100.000 signatures from people supporting their campaign. “People were not afraid anymore, they came up to us asking questions about our political ideas. An atmosphere completely different from
the last elections in 2006. Something else seemed possible”. That is how one of the liberal campaigners described the situation in the weeks before 19 December 2010. The EU had partly lifted its sanctions against Belarus, Guido Westerwelle, German Foreign Minister and his Polish counterpart Radoslav Sikorski went to Minsk to push for free and fair elections in early December.
Repression is still ongoing, students were kicked out of their universities because they took part in the demonstration on 19 December. Anybody that speaks out for democracy and human rights may be arrested anytime. People are being summoned by the KGB and questioned whether they took part in demonstrations or other “illegal “actions.
“It is not about the voting, it is all about the counting”, obviously Alexander Lukachenko remembered this old stalinistic saying. Election results were falsified in a very drastic way as the OSCE election observers stated. When these results were published on election night tens of thousands of Belarusians came down to Minsk‘s central square to demonstrate for free and fair elections. The police brutally hit people, injured and arrested hundreds of them. Nearly all former opposition candidates were arrested and brought to jail. Several were beaten and injured badly. In the days that followed the KGB - still the name of Belarus’ secret police - searched private apartments. People were dragged from their beds into police cars and disappeared. Human rights organisations offices were raided; all of their belongings and working material was confiscated. The same happened to the few independent newspapers that still exist.
Alexander Lukachenko has shown his true face as Europe‘s last stalinistic dictator. The EU must take a clear stand for democracy and human rights. This amongst other actions means personal sanctions against those that are responsible for the repression. On the other hand, it is extremely important to support people and organisations that are not giving up the fight for democracy in Belarus. Students should be given possibilities to finish their studies at EU universities, contacts with the civil society must be reinforced. We should be very clear that we don‘t want to isolate the people of Belarus, they are Europeans and should be part of our family. Most importantly we shouldn‘t forget them in the coming months and years.
Families have no contact with their imprisoned relatives; lawyers are restricted in seeing them and are not allowed to bring any news to the families.
Joint Statement on situation after the elections in Belarus The liberal forces of Europe strongly condemn the violent repression of political protest in the aftermath of the Presidential elections in Belarus on 19 December 2010 when more than 600 people were arrested. At least 25 civic activists and political opponents of the regime are accused of «mass disorders» and risk up to 15 years of imprisonment. 23 of them are still detained in remand prisons: among them not only presidential candidates and politicians, but also journalists, intellectuals and our liberal partners. The European liberals call on the Belarusian authorities to release anyone detained for the expression of critical views regarding the outcome of the election and to avoid the reappearance of the practice of imprisonment of political opponents. We demand that the investigation into the so- called «mass disorder» be conducted in a proper and politically unbiased way. We strongly demand a clear roadmap for democratic reform and free and fair elections to be developed by the Belarusian authorities with assistance of the international institutions. Anne Brasseur (ALDE-PACE), Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE-EP), Annemie Neyts (ELDR) and Hans Van Baalen (LI)
justice and home affairs can prevent organized crime rings in the two countries from expanding into other EU states? Combating criminality is a complex effort which requires a legal frame, funds, access to advanced technology, knowhow and most of all cooperative action. Trans-border criminality within the EU Schengen or beyond, as well as coming from third countries, has become a major threat and requires firm action, which in fact is taking place at the EU level. Organised crime implies corruption because such gangs would not survive unless supported in one way or another by corrupted law enforcement, not only in the two countries but in other EU countries as well. If we look at the Italian Mafia, can anyone believe that it could have been so «successful» by itself without various authorities turning a blind eye? I personally consider that Europol is an agency we should trust more, as we should trust more Eurojust. 3. Visa liberalization to non EU countries such as the Western Balkans has become a very contentious issue among the EU population. What are your views on this and what does the EU need to do in order to guard its external borders? In times of economic crisis people fear more about losing their jobs and finding scapegoats is perceived as a universal panacea. I am in favour of visa liberalisation as I am in favour of finding appropriate solutions to legalise migration into the EU. Maybe the European peoples should remember that
their own predecessors migrated not so long ago to other continents or countries within Europe for a number of reasons: fear from persecution, fear from hunger, looking for a better life. 4. The presence of Roma people in the EU was a heated issue late last summer, when Commissioner Reding challenged France for its controversial actions towards Roma people, including offering financial compensation to leave French territory. What do you think the Hungarian EU Presidency, with an outspoken aim of lifting this issue, could do to address the education and integration of the Roma into European societies? There have been several demands from the European Parliament and of the Roma civil society for an EU Strategy on Roma inclusion: a strategy that would be for at least 20 years with clear benchmarks, with the cooperation of all Member states and available funds. What will come seems to me to be very far from this. The European Commission has promised an EU Framework for national strategies on Roma inclusion, and the Hungarian presidency supports this. Education is very important but just one aspect.
Liberal democrat party of serbia
Belgrade to become European Capital of Culture
Like many other cities, Belgrade has been witness to numerous historical phases, light and dark alike. It has enjoyed years of progress and success, but it also suffered years of wars and devastation. Not so long ago, our generation experienced a very hard decade that left numerous consequences. Thankfully, this is behind us. One of the strategic goals of Belgrade in the decade to come is to become the European Capital of Culture. The richness of European traditions and the nature of the project of European Capital of Culture show us that culture is the best way to promote development of a society. It is with that in mind that Serbia’s Liberal Democrat Party in Belgrade initiated this project, a long-term strategy of cultural development of the city for the next ten years. The apex of this strategy is the project Beograd – the European Capital of Culture 2020, which comes as the crown of the entire engagement in the cultural sector. The
voyage through ten different topics will integrate all artistic disciplines, traditional and contemporary, temporal and spatial. Belgrade intends to create a network of local, regional and European partner cities with which it will develop similar projects in the area of culture. For the Liberal Democratic Party, a partner in the Belgrade city government coalition, this is the most important project in the cultural sector of the coming years. The greatest potential of our metropolis lies in its people, wherever they are. The most inspiring moment is the idea of creating a renaissance environment for the further development of Belgrade and Serbia. Such an environment will create a chance to engage thousands of young people, who still opt for leaving the country due to the lack of employment opportunities. All of this effort is essentially focused on establishing new perspectives for all of us who love this city and want to live and work in it.
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
Moldova on the path of EU accession
The first important step is a stable government BY GRAHAM WATSON MEP (LIBERAL DEMOCRATS, UK), ELDR VICE PRESIDENT AND RAPPORTEUR FOR THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
As Rapporteur for Moldova for the European Parliament, I have watched our neighbour closely and have seen much to admire in its progress towards democratic consolidation, economic liberalism and hopefully, eventual European Union (EU) membership. That is, of course, the ultimate goal but as yet there are many steps to be taken. One crucial step that has already been taken is the formation of a coalition government. It was only on December 2010, that Marian Lupu’s Democratic Party agreed to join with the Liberal Democratic Party and thereby re-form the Alliance for European Integration (AIE II) with Prime Minister Vlad Filat at the helm. The next step that needs to be taken is the election of a President. To do so will require that the liberal coalition reaches out to the Communist parliamentary group to come to an agreement on the candidate and to obtain their votes. The first round of elections, according to the constitution, must take place by the end of this month at the latest. Electing a president remains the final hurdle to putting an end to the rounds of elections, re-elections and political instability of the last 18 months which has put normal functioning of government at an impasse.
Having a working government will allow the Moldovans to concentrate on the urgent issues that demand their attention. So far, the new government has voiced commendable ambition. European integration has been stated as one of the main priorities. To that end, it has set out its plans to negotiate an Association Agreement and launch the negotiation for EU member status. Crucially, there are reforms planned aimed at ensuring media freedom; independence of the judiciary; liberalisation of the economy and the convergence of Moldova’s social, political and economic life in line with the EU’s body of laws - the so called «acquis communitaire». However, commitment is only the first step: it is consistent implementation and tangible results which remain the litmus test for the government. There is much reason to be positive. Moldova is undoubtedly the major success of the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The speed of negotiations has been extraordinary with the Moldovans responding positively and promptly. From issues of constitutional change to mobility partnerships and visa liberalisation the dialogue between the EU and Moldova has been productive and fruitful.
on the progress of other countries, specifically at the moment Ukraine. However, not all countries demonstrate the rigour and commitment of Moldova.
Moldovan membership of the EU is the ultimate goal but we must be patient and realistic about the time frame required. Meanwhile, as we work towards membership, it is worth bearing in mind that it is the process that matters. Converging Moldovan society towards the EU will make its economy more vibrant and innovative, its politics more stable and open doors and opportunities for its people. The EU stands ready and committed to help but meaningful change can only come from the Moldovans themselves.
An inside perspective on Turkey-EU lenges are growing by the day. E.g. the financial and economic crisis uncovered many weaknesses in the financial and economic structure of the Union. Will the EU be ready to face aging population, huge public debts, a diminishing entrepreneurship and the general loss in economic terms?
Enlargement as tool for soft power has proven the strongest foreign policy of the European Union, but today’s global power balances are shifting. New global players like China, India, Russia and Brazil already claim their position in the world. The EU either seems to ignore these challenges or fail to respond to them. But these chal-
Turkey is and has always been the most east of the West and the most west of the East, making it the cross roads of different continents with a vibrant history. It is difficult to analyze its true value. But while some Europeans are still stuck with a neooriëntalist image about Turkey, the country has transformed into an economic prodigy with macro-economic figures that many European countries only dream of. Also, the Turkish demographics offer a young and well educated population believing in democracy and willing to work. Turkey has a population of 73 million people living in a society subject to constant change, which make them suitable to fit in new societies where they easily adapt. Economically, Europe has been stagnating since the beginning of the millennium, yet Turkey’s economy has grown exemplarily due to efficient short and mid-term domestic and foreign policies, owing to an EU perspective. Rediscovering its neigh-
1. Last October you went to Reykjavik on the occasion of the first meeting of the EU-Iceland Joint Parliamentary Committee. How did it go? In Reykjavik we held several meetings with members of the Icelandic government including the Finance Minister, the Trade Minister, the Fisheries Minister and representatives of civil society. We also met with the President of Iceland. During our meeting with members of the Icelandic Parliament we discussed issues pertaining to Iceland’s accession including the Common Fisheries Policy. 2. What is your agenda for the upcoming months? There is again Reykjavik on the 11th of April 2011 and the European Parliament will be hosting a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee in October. Members of the Icelandic Parliament will continue to participate in the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee.
As President of TUSKON, the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey, an umbrella organization representing 7 regional business federations, over 150 business associations and more than 20 000 entrepreneurs from all over Turkey, I would like to remind the readers that the population of Turkey considers itself culturally, geographically and economically a part of Europe and is still fully committed to the European Union membership bid of Turkey. As time passes by, Turkey is getting closer to membership and we hope that when the historical moment comes, the valuable political courage will be there to complete the metamorphosis of a real European global power, called the European Union.
The EU-Iceland Joint Parliamentary Committee was established following a decision by the European Council to proceed with accession negotiations with Iceland.
Should we be held hostage to the failure of multilateral cooperation? Perhaps, there is a value in taking each country on its own merits and rewarding (or vice versa) individual countries on a case by case basis. Moldova is the exemplar of the European Partnership and the success of Moldova rejuvenates the «raison d’etre» of the partnership. It would be a great pity if any further progress of Moldova was to be retarded by that very same instrument.
The determination and success of Moldova raises questions about the broader approach of the Eastern Partnership. Currently, the approach is regional, with one country’s development within the Eastern neighbourhood being inextricably linked to that of the other countries. Therefore, for example, how far Moldova progresses on visa liberalisation will also depends
I believe this is an issue with many answers, but a key part of the answer of this confrontational question is more obvious than we might think: enlargement with Turkey.
INTERVIEW with PAT THE COPE GALLAGHER (MEP, Fianna fail, Ireland), Chairman of the EU-Iceland Joint Parliamentary Committee
New global players like China, India, Russia and Brazil already claim their position in the world.
borhood, Turkey follows a “zero-problem, limitless trade” policy, creating a market of 2 billion potential consumers. Interestingly, most of these markets are undiscovered or difficult to penetrate for European entrepreneurs, especially for SME’s and these countries have much of the valuable energy resources the European economy craves for. Unlike some allege, Turkey is not a source for illegal migration but a transit country and faces similar refuge challenge as most European countries. Therefore Turkey is a valuable ally in the struggle against illegal migration to the European Union. Turkey today is determined to transform itself into a country that is a part of the modern world by adapting a new constitution, by modernizing its structures and by investing in its human resources, not only to become a member of the European Union, but also to claim its place in the new global reality.
3. From your privileged point of view (MEP and Chairman of the EU-Iceland joint parliamentary committee) what is the political meaning of the eventual accession of Iceland to the European Union? Iceland and the European Union share a deep historical, political and economic relationship. I would very much welcome the accession of Iceland to the European Union as I feel the European Union can learn a lot from Iceland and the Icelandic people. Iceland has the potential to play a constructive and positive role in the future of the European Union. 4. In more detail, what is the economic and political added value for Iceland to become a member of the EU? Iceland is strategically an important nation in terms of arctic policies and politics as the European Union is developing its own policy on the arctic. Iceland as a country within the arctic can provide important political added value. Iceland’s immense experience in developing renewable energy is something from which the European Union can learn.
If the European Union wants to become the socio-economic global player which sets the universal standards in economy, industry and human rights, then the European Union has to be brave enough to evolve from a regional player without Turkey, into a real completed EU with Turkey. The question is; “Will the European Union be brave enough to claim its place in the new world order when the time comes?” Rizanur Meral, President of TUSKON
5. Unlike other countries, Iceland enjoyed a fast track procedure to be granted candidate status. Do you think it is realistic for Iceland to become member by 2012? As a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) Iceland has completed nearly two thirds of the accession chapters, however the remaining chapters such as fisheries will be difficult to solve before 2012. I understand the screening process is underway at the moment. Once negotiations are finished and a deal is agreed, it will be the people of Iceland that will ultimately decide via a referendum. 6. Is there a common position on this accession amongst the liberals in the European Parliament? The liberals in the European Parliament are fully supportive of the decision of the Icelandic government to begin accession talks with the European Union. However we fully respect that ultimately the decision will be made by the people of Iceland. This is the common position. 7. You said in one of your last interviews that the accession negotiations will undoubtedly be tough. What are the most delicate issues in this accession process? The referendum campaign; the weak confidence of the Icelandic citizens; the whale hunting bid; Iceland’s economic situation? Prior to the Ice-Save issue, public opinion in Iceland supported European Union accession, however the opinion of the European Union has been damaged by the dispute between Iceland and the governments of the UK and the Netherlands. However ultimately the most contentious and difficult issue will be the fisheries chapter as over 40% of Iceland’s exports relate to this sector. Fisheries is one of Iceland’s most important natural resources.
Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), the Parliament’s shadow rapporteur, was categorical about the issue of repayments to the UK and the Netherlands. «I welcome the start of negotiations and believe that Iceland will make a significant contribution to the EU but we have to make it clear that Iceland must resolve issues concerning Icesave if negotiations are to conclude successfully,» he stated.
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
ELDR involving citizens in the European political sphere party – without necessarily having to be a member of a party on a national level. This is a highly exciting development, as it carries the potential of opening up a truly pan-European political discussion and influence the interest in European Parliament elections come 2014, when the next ones are scheduled to take place. So if you sympathize with European Liberalism and would like to show your support and help us and the European political scene to develop further, I invite you to apply for membership with us through our website, www.eldr.eu. Spreading the word is also warmly appreciated! European politics is sometimes criticized for being too far from citizens’ realities, and offer limited possibilities for citizens to get involved in European issues. While this is true for certain elements of the European Union – Europe is also unfairly attacked in many respects. Having said that, it is also fair to say that the EU is far from its ideal state, where citizens would actively participate in a flourishing debate and use their votes to affect true European policy change. As only a few examples, we know that the voting turnout in the European Parliament elections has been on a steady decline in many EU member states – and even though the so called citizens initiative, where one million Europeans can propose the European Commission to initiate legislation on a certain issue is a good step, it is only a first, careful step forward. With democratic deliberation and freedom of choice incorporated in our political DNA, European Liberals believe it is of great importance to address this. We are therefore determined to play our part in reaching out to grass roots and involving citizens in the work of the European Union and understanding of the benefits of a common European sphere. At the time of writing, the ELDR Party is preparing at least three interesting and topical initiatives with this aim. Firstly, as you will have read on page 3 of this newspaper, in the beginning of February we launched our so called Associate Membership for individuals. This is yet another issue where Liberals are breaking new ground, as we are the first European political party that will allow citizens become a member of a European
Secondly, as Liberals we naturally nurture a strong belief in that education is the basis for enlightened decisions and the backbone of the individual’s possibilities to make free choices. Therefore, we also take a particular interest in reaching out to students – to inform them about what we are doing as well as to gain new impetus to what questions will be important for the future. A number of issues such as internet privacy and cross-border rights in a globalised society are namely of such character, that they have developed quickly over a short time-span, and represent a need for political parties – including Liberals – to find new, appropriate answers to stay in touch with the citizens. Who are better equipped to voice these views than today’s students? We are therefore set to arrange two multiple-day seminars aimed at students with high-level European liberal speakers. The first one – Liberal Youth Forum – will take place in Wroclaw, Poland, on 4-6 March 2011 in collaboration with the CEVIPOL institute of Université Libre de Bruxelles and Uniwersytet Wroclawski. It will primarily convene students with an interest in developments in Central and Eastern Europe, and the future potential of liberalism in this region. The second one – The ELF/ELDR Liberal Academy – will build on last year’s successful blueprint and take place in Brussels, Belgium in the beginning of September 2011 and convene students with an interest in the future and functionality of the European Union. Further
Interview with Niccolo’ Rinaldi, MEP (Italia dei Valori) 1. After an intense year like the past first full year of the new EP legislature, what are your priorities for 2011? I have an entire set of targets, at different levels. But the main is still the ambition of finding a joyful expression of what we try to achieve - in spite of all our contradictions and shortcomings. If we, the ones who work within the EU institutions, are not able to communicate the beauty of our work, there is little chance that the European project will be able to attract interest from the citizens. After all it is a matter of love, and this is the real priority for the current year too. But if you ask me to name one single possible achievement for 2011, among the many, I hope to be able to finalise a not directly political project, which has been a quite refreshing one for me in the last two years: the publication of a guide on the lesser known sites of Florence. It should be published simultaneously in three languages and it did demand a lot of time, since I collected more than 150 different spots in my hometown which are not well known. Each of them is the revelation of something still enduring in the age of globalisation, examples both from the past and from the contemporary age. And the shaping of this guide is also a political tool: it is an act of observation in our changing world, a demonstration of giving to urban details the importance they deserve, because this is the essence of a territory.
information on this will follow shortly, and can be monitored on our homepage, www.eldr.eu. Collectively, it is my hope that these events will bring us a bit on the way to dismantling false myths about the EU, as well as closer to a feeling of that the EU is not a strange hybrid that one cannot affect. In many ways, the European political scene is just another layer in traditional politics, adding to the local, national and regional level. In other words – it contains elements that are fantastic, outrageous and most things in between. But most of all it is there to for us to influence. And like many national political scenes – it needs increased liberalism. Let us work on that together. Federica Sabbati, Secretary General, ELDR Party
2. Plenty of targets, yet last year you also managed to record a 100 % attendance in plenary sessions. What is your recipe for successfully combining the Parliament and other commitments? It is not that difficult, after all. Plenary sessions are just a few days a month. So I focus on plenaries, committees (and unfortunately mainly on one committee) and ALDE, over all it is about ten days a month. There is still time for constituency meetings and delegations. 3. What are your personal achievements in the EP until now and the weak points (if there are any) still to improve? The constant challenge is the one of communication. I am not a popular figure outside the party , I am not a TV celebrity, and somehow this is very healthy and positive. But it requires additional efforts in trying to reach a larger audience. The web, the frequent record of videos (among the last ones on the Day of the Memory of the Shoah, where I have been active in different parts of Italy), the books and other tools help, but much more should be done, and in an innovative way; communication is everywhere and from everywhere, and to find a channel to communicate the Europe we want is sometimes like venturing onto a difficult ground. 4. With your long European background, do you think it’s important to strike a balance between the European and national level? And what role does your party, Italia dei Valori, play in this strive? It is indeed the same face. To me Italy is a country which is falling out of the European framework - in terms of the rule of law, bureaucracy, efficiency, even civil rights. One of the books I’ve published is a small collection of 80 statistical indexes on different topics, mostly from the notes I had taken for my electoral campaign from access to internet to tax evasion, from corruption to equal opportunities, from the Ombudsman to competitiveness, and so on. For each data I have taken the European average or the data of UK, Spain, France and Germany, and then the Italian result - and almost without exception Italy constantly scores last. During the electoral campaign I made clear in my speeches that IdV’s traditional priorities are after all just the challenges of a party which wants Italy back fully within the European picture. We have no alternative than to be more present in Europe and to make Europe more present in Italian society. And the outcome for a MEP simply implies three duties: to work, to work and to work!
5. Who was the liberal personality that most influenced your political career? In terms of learning and inspiration, I am tempted to answer... Niccolò Machiavelli, and not for his alleged calculating and cynical approach, but for his commitment to work on actual grounds for the welfare of the community, on real people and not on dreams, refusing any hypocrisy and rhetoric. And William Shakespeare, who had a high concept of freedom and always gave more importance to individuals than to masses. Both had great liberal ideas. In terms of people I met, I learned in different ways from every single MEP I had the opportunity to work for. In particular it has been a privilege to work for Pat Cox and his intelligent smile, Graham Watson and his determination, and now with Guy Verhofstadt and his vision. Among the many Italians, I could write a book on three different characters of the ELDR/ALDE group whom each of them I find quite extraordinary in their own way: Bruno Visentini, Marco Pannella and Antonio Di Pietro. 6. What do you believe is your biggest achievement since entering politics? To still be married and with three children, and possibly even more; to still enjoy Bach and Monteverdi, Keith Jarrett and Paolo Fresu, Peter Gabriel and U2: to love theatre and once a year to still perform with my friends in Italy; to climb Alpine peaks and canoeing in Venice when I have time; to spend one full night with street people in Rome and learning from them; to question what I do and what I can’t do; and so on - my biggest achievement in politics being that I’m still convinced that politics is definitively not everything and there is much more to life.
Niccolo Rinaldi is Chair of IDV’s delegation in the EP and ALDE Vice-Chair
What could a post-national Europe be like? Spinelli group: a new project working for federalism and against euro-scepticism is born A task force of liberal minds, amongst them: Guy Verhofstadt, Jacques Delors, Pat Cox, Andrew Duff, Mario Monti, is at the base of a new project called the Spinelli Group: a pro-European initiative, speaking of federalisation of the European Union. Created on 15 September 2010 in Brussels and named after Altiero Spinelli, founding father of European integration, the aim is to create a network of citizens, politicians, academics and writers who support the idea of a united and more integrated Europe.
“A European interest above a national interest” could be their motto.
AN INTERVIEW WITH KOERT DEBEUF,HEAD OF OFFICE OF GUY VERHOFSTADT So, what is the core of the Spinelli Group, Mr Debeuf? It is a high-level pressure group, that promotes European integration for a more federal and stronger Europe. Everything organized by the Spinelli Group promotes this and works against euro-scepticism. More and more politicians do not dare to call themselves federalists and feel that they can’t be too pro-European. The Spinelli Group aims to make people proud of being European again. What do you see as the Spinelli Group’s most important task?
To reopen the debate on the future of Europe. The methods used do not work and will not work and it is crucial to remember the importance of the community. We need to find European answers. How could we bring the European institutions closer to the citizens? By creating a European public space, for example by a low federal tax and thus creating a link to the EU and creating more transparency. Furthermore through a transnational proposal – a group of MEPs from all across the European Union, that could be voted on in all the European Union countries, thus creating truly European members of the Parliament. And finally by creating more debate and awake people’s interest in European politics. What are the practical key elements you use in creating a more united European Union?
For example we organise a shadow council before the formal European Council, where we look at the most important issues for the coming Council from a European point of view and push everyone to think in a truly European way about the issues, not as individuals fighting for their own country. What could we gain from more integration? A certain guarantee, no challenge can be faced in a national way, for example issues like climate change. Trough integration we would really create prosperity and more work through common and shared strategies. What does the Spinelli group see as the biggest threats against the EU? Countries turning back to a national discourse, by being against the EU, with views such as “it costs too much” and “it
threatens our sovereignty”. The more this discourse is used, the less they tend to see the great success of EU. Even high-level politicians do not defend the EU anymore. How does the Spinelli Group envisage the future Europe? It is not a thing to think about immediately. Many in the Spinelli Group have dreams and visions, but the important part is to move forward, step by step and to fight for every step, not yet to discuss the final outcome of it. It is essential to criticize everything that doesn’t fill the conditions of the Spinelli doctrine.
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
Advancing Europe-wide patients rights Dr Antonyia Parvanova, Member of the European Parliament Vice-President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Shadow rapporteur for the Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare Looking back four years, when we launched with the ALDE group campaign «Europe for patients», liberals have good reasons to welcome the agreement reached with the Council on the directive on the application of Patients’ Rights in Cross-border healthcare, recently approved by the European Parliament.
another Member State and will be entitled to reimbursement to the same level that they would have been reimbursed in their State of affiliation. Concretely, it means a swifter access to specialist consultations for European patients, or a facilitated access to ambulatory care for people living in cross-border regions.
The European Parliament remained united and stayed firm during the negotiations with the Council: we have stood for patients rights and for the first time there will be a clear legislative framework in the EU for patients seeking treatment in another Member State. Yes, we have to consider the agreement reached as a small step, but it is a real achievement for patients in Europe, which will strengthen their rights, focusing on their needs, the information available to them, and the quality and safety of care.
But the crucial part of the negotiations on this directive was the possibility for Member States to set up a system of prior authorisation, through which patients will have to go in order to know if they will be reimbursed for treatment, in case of hospital care or highly specialised treatment. Of course, while allowing the free movement of patients, we have to take into account the need to maintain the financial and organisational sustainability of national health systems. The prior authorisation system has been limited to a certain type of health services - hospital and highly specialised care as already mentioned and the European Parliament insisted on having a closed list of criteria based on which Member States could refuse this authorisation, and therefore the right for patients to be reimbursed.
We have been through a long and difficult negotiation process, a long way to promote the right for EU citizens to seek treatment in another Member State - and to be reimbursed for it. But now that we have a directive, now that Member States need to get prepared and start their transposition and implementation process, one may wonder: what will change concretely mean for patients in Europe? First of all, patients will no longer have to wait for a decision of the European Court of Justice to know if they will be reimbursed for treatment they have received in another EU country. We could no longer continue with an accumulation of ECJ case law on the right to reimbursement, leaving patients in the midst of legal uncertainty. A first achievement of this directive, fiercely promoted by liberals at EU level, is that patients will be able to go and receive non-hospital care in
Let’s be clear here: the priority of patients’ rights put forward by the liberals, and the first step achieved with this Directive, has never been about promoting any kind of medical tourism or about allowing patients to bypass their national systems. It is about finding the right balance between the free movement of patients and the sustainability of national health systems, and most importantly to give all patients in Europe the right to safe, quality and timely healthcare treatment when needed. For example, a patient seeking an operation, which can be received in a medically justified time limit in his/her own country, will be entitled to go to
another Member States to be treated and to be reimbursed for this operation. This is obviously if the care received abroad also meets quality and safety standards and does not put the patient’s life at risk. In addition to these general provisions on the right to reimbursement, the directive also set up national contact points, which will provide patients with the information they need when they will have to go abroad for treatment. These contact point structures will also exchange information among themselves, notably on quality and safety, in order to facilitate the process. Information was indeed one of our key priorities, in order to ensure that patients are in a position to fully exercise their rights. Special attention has also been given to patients suffering from rare disease, and liberals have been leading the negotiations on this issue which initially faced some reluctance from Member States, fearing an overflow of patients seeking highly specialised care. We have focused our attention on the diagnostic issue and the mobility of the expertise, so that all patients suffering from rare diseases can benefit from swifter access to diagnosis, which is actually crucial and currently one of the main issues for patients with rare diseases. In addition, a specific emphasis on developing a treatment for rare diseases has been included in the objectives of the future European Reference Centres to be established under this Directive. Facilitating the exchange of information among rare diseases specialists, and providing a swifter access to diagnosis for patients who could not benefit from it in their own country should help reduce the unacceptable inequalities that exist in Europe, for example when only 5 patients are suffering from the same rare disease in their home country. It is indeed important to remember that several chapters of this directive aim to promote cooperation in the field of
Swedish parental leave system – a model for Europe? UK Deputy Prime Minister and LibDem leader Nick Clegg’s plans to allow couples to share maternity leave would be a major step forward for the UK and help boost the number of women in senior and boardroom positions. We asked Bonnie Bernström, President of Liberal Women in Sweden, about her views on the initiative of the British deputy PM. Is Sweden pursuing the same path?
Since 1974, fathers and mothers in Sweden can share parental leave equally. One of the first fathers taking advantage of this state benefit was a General Director of the National Post. Pictures of him and his little son were published all over the world. The system has been improved several times since the start. It includes nowadays an income compensation for 240 days for each parent. A parent can transfer all days to the other parent, except for 60 days - often called “Daddy-months”. 80 percent of the salary is covered by the state insurance up to a fixed ceiling during 390 days. Another 90 days are compensated at a far lower level. The ceiling is close to a salary of, for instance, a qualified teacher.
Liberals, in particular, consider the leave system as the most important tool to increase gender equality and have taken measures to encourage fathers to take more advantage of it. The most controversial, but now pretty popular, improvement was made in 1994, when the first “Daddy-month” was introduced by a liberal Deputy Prime Minister. Liberals have also introduced a Gender Equality Bonus up to1400 Euro in total, which the parents share equally. In spite of all efforts, fathers used only 22 percent of the 48 million days in 2009. Fathers need even more encouragement and stereotypes prevent free choice. The uneven use is a serious political problem and women’s position in the labour market remains weak. Life-income is affected and thereby women’s pension, which in a few decades can turn out to be a poverty trap especially in an aging Europe. Another problem is the uneven conditions undo which fathers and their children bond. Liberal Women and Liberal Youth are therefore convinced that it is necessary to double the current number of “Daddy-
months”. This would mean that mothers and fathers should be seen as individuals and not collectively as parents. The collective blinds the reality where very different gender expectations are laid on mothers and fathers. Research at the University of Umeå was recently published, finding that fathers, who took parental leave in 1978, survived the age of 50 to a greater extent. Families, with parents sharing equally, also seem to give birth to more children than other families. In other words, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg can take inspiration of the Swedish lessons learnt and best practices, when proposing reforms of the parental leave system in the UK. Bonnie Bernström President of Liberal Women in Sweden
healthcare at EU level, with the creation of European Reference Networks. If patients are moving, healthcare knowledge should do so as well. This cooperation aims at fostering innovation in the European healthcare sector, delivering concrete outcomes for both patients and our economy. Liberals have been actively promoting eHealth and Health Technology Assessment as concrete tools to develop cooperation and boost innovation in the healthcare sector. We could have certainly achieved more in this field if Member States would have been as ambitious as we were. But we have for the first time a piece of legislation at EU level paving the way for greater synergies, technological development and expertise sharing in the field of public health. All these provisions still need to be implemented and we will now have to be careful and monitor closely how the Directive works in practice, and to assess if patients can fully enjoy their rights. We have been insisting on clear and detailed monitoring and implementations requirements, allowing us to have a close look at how, for example, Member States are using the criteria to refuse a prior
authorisation and the reimbursement of patients seeking treatment abroad. These criteria should not, in any situation, constitute an unjustified obstacle to the free movement of patients and they should be limited to what they are aiming at: protecting patient’s safety and maintaining the delivery of timely and quality care in all Member States. This is, in the end, what we should aim for in the future: raising quality, safety and access standards for healthcare in Europe, thus reducing health inequalities in our Union, and giving rights to patients, not only when they cross a border. Let’s hope that this directive will also boost Member States in upgrading their own national health systems, understanding that it’s in their own interest that their citizens can receive timely and good quality care at home. Let’s not forget either that no one suffering from a serious health condition will enjoy traveling to another country. Once again, our demand for a «Europe for patients» is not about medical tourism, it is about guaranteeing to all EU citizens that they can enjoy good health care as one of their fundamental rights, whatever is their country of origin.
Fianna Fail elects new leader ahead of general election A general election will take place in Ireland on Friday 25 February following a rollercoaster few weeks in Irish politics, which has also seen former Irish foreign minister Micheál Martin take over the leadership of ELDR member party Fianna Fail following Brian Cowen’s decision to stand down as party leader ahead of the national vote. The national election was set to take place in March and Mr Cowen’s decision to step aside as leader of the main government party has merely served to bring this forward. Micheál Martin has taken over at a challenging time for Fianna Fail, but he is not ready to see his party relinquish its position in government without a fight. Speaking shortly after his election Mr Martin commented, “I have been immensely encouraged and energised by the response of my colleagues and ordinary members of the public to the approach I have set out for the upcoming campaign. I am immensely grateful for their support. I passionately believe that the time for politics as usual is over and that this campaign must be the impetus for the political reform that almost all political parties now agree is essential. In congratulating Mr Martin on his election as Fianna Fail leader ELDR Party President, Annemie Neyts, said “Fianna Fail is a major player in Irish and European politics and I look forward to working with Micheál Martin to strengthen liberal democrat values. The forthcoming Irish elections will be a challenging time, as is the case for all parties that have been in office during the economic crisis, but I am confident that Fianna Fail will present a strong program for government to the Irish electorate”.
February 2011 | ELDR News n°8 | www.eldr.eu
AN ALTERNATIVE INTERVIEW WITH the Minister of State for European affairs and member of the liberal Free Democratic party of Germany
A liberal drink… with Werner Hoyer Where do you stand on the political spectrum? I stand where freedom is at stake. The best example of government waste is… the infamous ‘Abwrackprämie’ of our predecessors which ate up five billion Euros of German taxpayer-money. The best example of high-quality government… German Reunification as a door opener for European unity. What is your favourite quotation? “Law has little meaning if it does not protect freedom” – Thomas Dehler
The most convincing evidence that brainwashing exists in Europe is the fact that some truly believe… that the state is the better banker. What should be the highest law in Europe? A real European Constitution.
A cup filled half-way is… … not yet full.
What are the greatest books of all time? The Bible, Nathan the Wise and The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Should gay teachers be allowed in the classroom? Why the heck not!?
Three best things in life… Family, friends and a glass of red wine. Wait, make it a bottle!
What is your position on sex education? There can’t be enough.
What do you fear? Like Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
How do you feel about freedom of speech in Europe? Just like any other civil liberty, freedom of speech needs to be actively protected. It is necessary to constantly scrutinize and reassure oneself of one’s civil rights.
Do you remember the last time you danced? Yes, I do. And I apologize. Have you ever read the Communist Manifesto? Yes!
ELDR Party aisbl European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party Parti européen des Libéraux, Démocrates et Réformateurs Rue Montoyerstraat 31, 1000 Brussels Tel. 02 237 01 40 - Fax 02 231 19 07 Editor: Chiara Puletti Publisher: Federica Sabbati Lay-out and impression: Trinôme Published with the support of the European Parliament. Printed on recycled paper
Planning of the ELDR meetings in 2011 · ELDR Liberal Youth forum in Wroclaw, Poland, 4-6 March 2011 · ELDR Prime Ministers meeting, 24 March 2011 · ELDR Council meeting, 20-21 May 2011, Dresden, Germany · ELF/ELDR Liberal summer academy, September 2011 · ELDR Prime Ministers meeting, 17 October 2011 · ELDR Congress, November 2011 · ELDR Leaders meeting, 8 December 2011 (tbc)
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. George Bernard Shaw
Council in Dresden, Germany on 20-21 May 2011 The 2011 ELDR Party Spring Council meeting will take place on 20-21 May in Dresden, Germany, at the invitation of the Freie Demokratische Partei. The Council meeting will take place on Friday afternoon and will be followed by a social event. On Saturday morning, a thematic seminar on EU cohesion policy will take place. For queries about the Council meeting please contact Robert Plummer, email@example.com, in the ELDR Party secretariat.
Speaking, enjoying, discussing, cheering, voting, singing… Here is an overview of the Congress 2010 in Helsinki