ALDE Party Congress – it’s a Marathon, not a sprint…

Welcome to, as you might have suspected from the pun in the title, Athens, where liberals, friends and allies are gathering for the 40th Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) Party. I’m here in a myriad of capacities, and I’ll be covering the event for Liberal Democrat Voice.

It’s an interesting time to be a European Liberal. Good results in the European Parliamentary election earlier this year led to a rather larger centrist group in the Parliament – I use the c-word advisedly, as ALDE MEPs have been subsumed into a larger Renew Europe group, including the French En Marche MEPs amongst others. In general, the mood is upbeat.

Not quite the same can be said for the Liberal Democrat delegation here. On the one hand, we did have sensationally good results and elected a large group in the European Parliament, and it’s nice to see how well they’ve engaged in the day to day work in Brussels and Strasbourg. On the other, the fragility of our status as an EU member state means that this might be our last event where we have the same influence as in years past. Leaving the EU would mean, for example, the loss of a meaningful say in drafting the ALDE Party’s key document, the European Parliamentary manifesto. And there has never been a member party from a country that has not only left the EU, but attempted to severe most of the legal ties that it had – Norway is still integrated with the EU to a large extent. What impact will that have on our relationship with fellow European liberals?

We’ll get a better idea over the next few days, especially given that we’ve nominated a candidate, our Party President, Sal Brinton, for one of the six Vice Presidential positions up for election. There’s a field of nine candidates, from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. One can only hope that it isn’t like Eurovision…

The resolutions up for debate aren’t startling, although I was slightly puzzled by the FDP resolution on chick culling. Yes, you did read that correctly. Is it really an issue requiring comment by a European political party, or would a simple statement condemning the practice suffice?

The fringe includes a potentially interesting discussion on the impact of tourism, training sessions on fundraising, digital campaigning and there’s also a discussion of the digital challenges we face as a society, with Margrethe Vestager amongst the panel.

On a personal note, my last meeting as a member of the ALDE Party’s Financial Advisory Committee takes place this afternoon, a matter of some sadness, as it has been one of the more satisfying things that I’ve done in more than thirty years of political activity. I’ll also be reprising my double act with Daniel Obst of the German Free Democrats as the Congress Returning Officers. Watch this space…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Liberal Democrat delegation to the ALDE Party Congress.

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