Back to home page

Europe ALDE/ELDR European Parliament

06/12/2013 European Liberals to campaign on short, punchy manifesto

   Fri 06/12/2013

The European Liberals have rejected the previous practice of entering election campaigns with a lengthy and detailed manifesto setting out their policy in a wide range of areas. Instead, as they prepare for next May's contest, they have opted for a short political text emphasising the importance of the European Union and the need for its reform.

Sir Graham Watson, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) party, explains the change: "What we have now is a good, coherent, brief but concise, punchy text of four to five pages. Previously, it would run to 40 or 50 pages."

Lousewies van der Laan, the ALDE vice-president who presided over the voting of 197 amendments as Liberal delegates from across the Union approved the manifesto at their London congress on 30 November, predicts that next year's elections could be different from any that have gone before."These could be the first European elections that could be about Europe. What kind of Europe do we want economically and socially will be a key question. Nationalists, xenophobes and populists are doing well nationally and are looking to do well in Europe. We can't do business as usual in Europe. That message has sunk in with Liberals, but I do not see that in the other two (EPP and S&D) parties. Reform is necessary," she said presenting the manifesto to activists in Brussels, on 5 December. Underlying the manifesto, 'A Europe that works', is the theme that the EU as it currently operates both internally and externally is no longer sufficient to solve the problems Europeans face. As they prepare to take on the rising tide of Euroscepticism, Liberals do not intend to defend the EU as it currently is or become entangled in pro and anti-EU debates. Instead, they are looking to project a different narrative in which a stronger Europe means a simpler Europe.

"We need to start exposing populists, challenging them to explain how they would solve the problems we have. We need to press them to be concrete," van der Laan says. She describes the manifesto as "a buffet" from which national and regional parties can pick policies and priorities that resonate with their electorates and inject more detail.

However, it is clear that tackling unemployment and economic reform, which receive the most attention in the manifesto, will be the dominant theme in the campaign. Other sections emphasise the need to set new priorities, restore stable finances, make the EU stronger in the world, safer at home more effective and more transparent.

Currently, ALDE has 85 MEPs. While the party is bracing itself for potential losses in its two biggest national delegations - UK and Germany - it is hopeful that the creation of ten new centrist lists across Europe in countries such as France, Poland, Austria, Greece, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Portugal, could compensate to some extent.

A recent compilation of various national opinion polls gives the Liberals 78 seats in the new Parliament (the EPP would have 226 and the Socialists 213), according to the calculations by Sondaggi Bidimedia in Italy. While Germany's FDP would slip to just four MEPs, the LibDems in the UK, who have decided to campaign on an unambiguous pro-EU ticket, would remain the largest national delegation with eight members.

As the Liberals prepare for next year's European elections, the ALDE party renewed its Bureau at its recent London congress. Sir Graham was overwhelmingly re-elected president for a further two years with over 90% of the votes cast. Five vice-presidential mandates were also renewed: Lousewies van der Laan, Marc Guerrero, Olle Schmidt, Karin Riis-Jorgensen and Alexander Graf Lambsdorff.

ALDE MEPs UK, Germany (12 each), France, Netherlands (six each), Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy (five each), Ireland, Finland, Sweden (four each), Denmark, Estonia (three each), Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain (two each), Austria, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovakia (one each). There are no Liberal MEPs from Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland or Portugal.