At an online seminar organised by the European Liberal Forum (ELF) on 10 September, ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen discussed the priorities for the next political year with Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of the European Movement International and Valentin Kreilinger, Policy and Research Coordinator at ELF. The discussion was moderated by Peter Müller, Brussels Bureau Chief of the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
This timely discussion came ahead of the State of the Union Address (SOTEU) of 16 September, delivered by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. In his intervention, President van Baalen expressed his hope for President von der Leyen to be bold and direct, addressing the citizens and member states instead of making the SOTEU address a ‘Brussels bubble event’.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having an impact on everyone and on every part of our societies, van Baalen mentioned that this should also feature as part of von der Leyen’s address, noting: “The current health crisis shows the limits of the power of the Commission. President von der Leyen did not mismanage the situation.” With the lack of unity and information between different EU member states, van Baalen highlighted the crucial role that the European Commission could play in coordinating the measures during the likely second wave of the virus.
The EU’s position as a global actor was also discussed. According to van Baalen, both the European Commission and the European Council need to take a clear stance when it comes to the relationship with China and Russia.
“China is a dictatorship; we need to agree on that. The way they threat minorities like Uyghurs and Tibetans, threatens Taiwan and violates Hong Kong’s autonomy is outrageous and is a direct violation of human rights,” van Baalen stated.
And sometimes we also need to look closer to home, van Baalen reminded. EU member states, such as Poland and Hungary, violate civil liberties and harm the European unity. Linking economic consequences to the violations of civil liberties by for example limiting the member state’s access to the recovery fund could be a way to put pressure on the governments, van Baalen said.
You can re-watch the seminar here.