Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for April 28th, 2018

ALDE’s Balkan Serenade

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th April, 2018

A198F168-1FAA-4223-9CE5-D5648356448FThe Sofia ALDE (Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe) Council finished this evening with a dinner reception in the Lozenets Residence, a nostalgic monument to Communist grandeur; once an officers’ club it now serves as a government entertainment venue, with live music, rather good food and decor that took me back to 1960s Eastern Europe: square marble faced pillars with faux Doric capitals, symmetrical carpets and chandeliers about half the size that would look right. The hospitality was most generous, in true Balkans fashion; I am often embarrassed by how mean Northern European sometimes are in comparison. Though this was an ALDE event, Juli Minoves, President of Liberal International, gave a Liberal medal for sterling service to Sir Graham Watson, former leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament and later President of the ALDE Party. He recalled that he has been attending international Liberal events since the LI Congress in Ottawa, which I believe was my first entry into the circuit as well. Graham enjoys crafting eloquent speeches and his gracious acceptance of the award was no exception. But of course for all Brits present this was a bitter-sweet occasion, as our participation in ALDE will inevitably diminish if Brexit goes ahead, as seems likely (though not inevitable). It is paradoxical that the Brits (including the Conservatives) were the most enthusiastic of the EU member states in welcoming formerly Communist countries such as Bulgaria into the fold, but are now trying to remove the UK from the 28-member body. For the Bulgarians there is the added resonance that the late 19th Century, Liberal statesman William Gladstone was a great champion of Bulgarian Rights in Ottoman times — there is even a street in central Sofia names after him. So they ate particularly saddened by Brexit. At least the UK LibDems will be able to remain part of ALDE whatever happens over the next year or so, and in the Council meeting earlier today, a plea was made for continental parties to encourage their nationals resident in the UK (an estimated 3 million) to vote next Thursday for us to help to try to stop Brexit.

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