The 36th ALDE Party Congress has been officially opened today Friday 20 November by ALDE Party President Sir Graham Watson in Budapest, Hungary.
"We face supranational challenges which need supranational answers. A global politics for a global age. So we must step up co-operation between intelligence services, police forces, judiciaries. Unite in a common purpose to enforce the rule of law. Not have the criminal half way round the world while the bobby is still getting his boots on.", said Sir Graham Watson during his opening speech.
"We must welcome refugees with resolve and readiness, preparation and purpose, open hearts and open minds. Not shut out those who flee from the very same monster we face. Work with them - as a liberal America worked with our refugees one hundred years ago - to build a Continent which is truly great.", he added.
Other speakers during the event were the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova via video message, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, and a Member of the Hungarian Parliament from Eguytt Zsuzsanna Szelenyi.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, in her video message Commissioner Jourova emphasized the importance to react to such threats: "We need to be ready to act in an appropriate way whenever our values come under threat."
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel talked about the challenges of the current Luxembourg presidency of the Council of the European Union. "I prefer to be less popular and decide then to take no decisions and leave the drama for the next generations", he said. "Europe is not a la carte, either you are in or not and there are some red lines, such as freedom of movement," added the Prime Minister.
In his first speech addressing the ALDE Party Congress, Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis considered that "there is too much time between and actions in European governance". In this regard, "Liberals and Democrats can offer real alternatives for Europe".
In the context of Hungary, Zsuzsanna Szelenyi MP from the political party Eguytt highlighted the importance of the value of freedom: "Well-being is not possible when we give up freedom, our values are the strong basis of the European idea". Szelenyi believes that "extreme populists will never solve any problem."
The leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, offered a report from the EP during the Opening Ceremony. In the report, he clearly addressed the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orban: "It is not a coincidence that the ALDE Congress is in Budapest, our presence is a clear 'no' to the 'illiberal state' of Orban." He continued: "Mr Orban is not a problem for the Hungarians, it is a problem for Europeans and we tolerate it".
Following the Opening Ceremony, Sir Graham Watson, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly at the Council of Europe (PACE) Anne Brasseur and the two presidential candidates for the ALDE Party Siim Kallas and Hans van Baalen offered a press conference at the Sofitel Hotel.
During the press conference, Anne Brasseur noted that after the attacks in Paris it is now a crucial time to discuss freedom. Brasseur finds "unacceptable that populist parties try to make a link between migration and terrorism".
ALDE Party presidential candidates Siim Kallas and Hans van Baalen agreed that it is important to make ALDE Party a strong party in order to be able to take political decisions. In line with this, Sir Graham Watson hopes that "in a few years ALDE Party will have more Prime Ministers than any other European forces".
Note to editors:
The ALDE Party consists of 55 member parties and many individual members from 37 countries across Europe.