With normalcy returning and Europe becoming ready to recover and renew, the liberal family continues to play an active part at all levels of government. We spoke with ALDE Party acting co-Presidents Senator Timmy Dooley and Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP to hear how they have experienced this challenging time in Europe’s history and what their expectations are for the months ahead.
This interview was originally published in the ALDE Party Liberal Bulletin in December 2021.
How would you describe these past months as ALDE Party co-President?
TD: The role has come about from a position of great sadness, as it followed the passing of Hans van Baalen – someone we all admired and whose guidance and stewardship we valued. It has been a challenging time for Ilhan and I also because of the restrictions on travel, which have made it difficult to meet with all the member parties and political leaders we would have hoped to meet with. But, now that the situation is improving across Europe, we are looking forward to being able to do this and attend more in-person events.
IK: It has indeed been an intense time, with key meetings and discussions taking place with prime ministers, regional leaders and member parties. I am confident that if we keep going forward on our common path, we will achieve great results together as a liberal family.
Despite the continued challenges globally, which liberal achievements or successes have made you the proudest in 2021?
TD: Bringing several liberal leaders together ahead of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in October was a big achievement for ALDE Party. Based on my discussions with the leaders, they really value coordination, coming together to try and build a consensus around important topics and communicating about them afterwards in a united way. Having so many of our Prime Ministers and even some of our Commissioners joining really gives an impetus to build strong ties between the liberal parties across Europe. This, in my view, will help us to be active players in the European Council, Commission and Parliament.
IK: Echoing Timmy’s words, the EU-Western Balkans Summit was a success. Despite some bilateral challenges, we were able to come up with a strategy towards integrating the Western Balkan countries, which is something I am very proud of. These countries belong to the European Union geographically and historically, but they also need to be connected politically. Economic investments can play a key role in this, connecting not only the region but also people.
And what do you think are the most urgent issues for Europe to tackle in 2022?
TD: The aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, notably rebuilding our economies, is the single biggest challenge. While we want our economies to grow, there is a risk of significant inflation. So, we need to find ways to manage those two competing interests in the months and years to come.
IK: We have a myriad of important issues to deal with: migration, being better prepared for future crises and so on. And we shouldn’t forget the Conference on the Future of Europe. This initiative is key in shaping the European perspective in the Western Balkans, for example, but should also send the right message when it comes to reforming the EU. EU citizens are right when they say they like the EU but they don’t like how the institutions work.
It is time to change some things, and the Conference is a great tool to achieve this. Yet, it should not be used only for consulting citizens but also take their voices and opinions to the level where decisions are made.
The liberal family will come together for ALDE Party Council meeting in Rome. What are your hopes and expectations for this meeting?
TD: I am really looking forward to the Council Meeting as it will be the first opportunity to meet in person again. We have missed that. Us liberals, we like to engage with each other, we like to talk, to discuss, to socialise, to raise a glass together… All this has obviously been missing from online interactions. The Council will also be an important moment to start planning for the next ALDE Party Congress that will take place in Dublin in June 2022.
IK: I hope that as many delegates as possible can come together and that we will have opportunities to discuss the future of the EU as well as that of ALDE Party. Now is the best time to shape the European project, and it is in our liberal hands. We have the necessary vision, creativity and ambition to change this shared project for the better.
You can follow ALDE Party acting co-president Senator Timmy Dooley here.
You can also follow ALDE Party acting co-president Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP here.