On Saturday 17 October, Dutch ALDE member D66, in cooperation with the ALDE Party, held its European Conference at the Brussels headquarters of Belgian ALDE member Open Vld.
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP of D66 opened the Conference by addressing the 200 participants who attended online, followed by an opening statement by party leader of Open Vld Egbert Lachaert, who stressed the warm and close relationship between both parties and asserted the crucial need for politicians to regain the trust of the people in times of crises, among others.
“The current pandemic puts our democracies and our fundamental rights and freedoms under pressure. Rights we took for granted. We need to cooperate in an intertwined world to face these challenges together and have the rule of law and our liberal freedoms prevail,” Lachaert said.
Former party leader and D66 spokesperson on European Affairs Rob Jetten moderated a roundtable discussion on the European approach to fighting COVID-19, joined by D66 Senate leader Annelien Bredenoord, former MEP and Belgian Minister Philippe De Backer and French MEP from Renaissance Véronique Triller-Lenoir. The participants noted that cross-border cooperation is not an act of solidarity, but rather a medical necessity and that the European Union should work on a distribution plan before the first vaccines will enter the market.
Different fringe meetings were also organised with numerous ALDE MEPs, including Karen Melchior (Radikale Venstre), Jan-Christoph Oetjen (FDP), Samira Rafaela (D66) and Katalin Cseh (Momentum), as well as LYMEC President Antoaneta Asenova.
ALDE Party Vice-President Annelou van Egmond chaired a panel discussion between former European Commissioner for Trade and Internal Affairs Cecilia Malmström (Liberalerna) and D66 Party Leader Sigrid Kaag. As experts in international trade, Malmström and Kaag shed light on current power relations and how the pandemic affects the world economy. They both underlined the need to restore international trade relations, the need to diversify the supply of essential materials and medical gear as well as the need to become less dependent on other world powers, such as China and India. Malmström, who is in the running to become the next OECD Secretary-General, agreed with Kaag that multilatelarism is not a luxury but a necessity, concluding that sharing knowledge and commodities with different international partners is key in preparing for a potential future crisis.
In her concluding speech of the day, party leader and Minister of International Trade Sigrid Kaag highlighted the importance of this moment in showing the power of the European Union. According to her, the EU will need to invest more in sustainable economic growth and defend the rule of law and our rights and values, among others. Kaag stands firm against rule of law violations, such as the LGBTI-free zones and xenophobic racist attacks throughout Europe and encouraged the public to prove the populists and nationalists wrong by saying:
“Let us become once again one of those European front-runners. Let’s shy away from the doubting and dare to lead. Persistence is the belief that we can make Europe improve into the place we know it can be!”
You can re-watch the stream on YouTube here.