24 Feb, 2020

Liberals are renewing Europe for the new decade

An op-ed by Hans van Baalen, ALDE Party President

2020 is the start of a decade like no other Europe has faced. For the first time in its history, a member of the European Union is leaving the club. We liberals deeply regret this decision but hope that we will continue to remain close partners in the future. However, despite these changes, citizens’ support for the European Union is growing and in 2019, positive opinion of the EU reached a 10-year high.

This was evident in the latest European elections, where citizens sent a clear message about our common future. With record voter turnout levels, liberals were the group that gained the most seats in the European Parliament, rupturing the grand coalitions that governed Europe in years past.

Forging a new partnership with La République En Marche and French President Emmanuel Macron, ALDE joined forces to create the Renew Europe Group, now 108 MEPs strong and even once the UK MEPs leave their seats, the third-largest group in the Parliament. Led by former Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș MEP, liberals maintain a strong influence on EU decision-making, with our support required to form majorities for all European Parliament legislation.

For the first time a liberal, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, holds the European Council Presidency and in the current European Commission, liberals secured portfolios of utmost importance to EU citizens. Margarethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, is leading the digital shift and empowering people with a new generation of technologies.

Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, together with Didier Reynders (Justice) are leading the charge to defend individual freedoms and civil liberties across EU governance. With a new mechanism to monitor violations of fundamental rights and the rule of law in EU member states, liberal values will become a pillar for defending human rights in Europe, bridging political divides.

Over the decades, we as Europeans have built a common understanding and institutions for democracy and justice. It is also our responsibility to safeguard them against threats posed by populism, extremism and anti-democratic forces that have emerged across Europe, overtaking pluralistic debate and undermining the rule of law, particularly in Hungary and Poland.

Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, is instrumental to targeting climate change in a way that is both smart and fair. Similarly, Commissioners Thierry Breton (Internal Market) and Janez Lenarčič (Crisis Management) are ensuring that Europe develops a strong, digital internal market and migration policies that are safe, humane and legal – imperative for shaping a Union that solves problems to the benefit of its citizens.

From 2020, on the cusp of the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, the demand for a liberal, pro-European approach to EU governance looks stronger than ever. Liberals will be active participants in the Conference on the Future of Europe, ensuring that the EU neither closes its borders to new members nor opportunities.

The future of Europe will be determined by close cooperation between the Member States, their Governments and Parliaments on the one hand and the European Institutions on the other. The European Union is not only Brussels, but the sum of its parts – from Berlin to Paris, Copenhagen and Bucharest, Sofia, Rome and beyond.

Combined, these measures will renew and strengthen our European democracy, to the benefit of all citizens, and ensure prosperity for future generations. Together, liberals will play a vital role in defining the future of Europe in 2020. Securing a fair, free and open Europe is the only way forward, and we are ready to play our part.

This article was reproduced with permission. The original is available here.

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