Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Athens’

The European Liberal Family (ALDE)

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd November, 2019

12836C57-4082-48C4-B8C6-5EA2ED7AF71AFor most of last week I was in Athens, the cradle of democracy, for the ALDE Party Congress, which brought together dozens of Liberal parties from across Europe, not just the EU. I’ve been on the ALDE’s elected Council as a UK Liberal Democrats’ representative for many years and am currently standing for re-election to that role (all LibDem members can vote). As ever, one of the highlights of the Congress was the welcoming into membership of new parties, the details of which can be found on the ALDE website*. But inevitably a lot of the political discussion, especially outside the plenary sessions, was about Brexit. It was good to be able to confirm that the UK would not be leaving the EU on 31 October after all, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s do-or-die pledge. The British delegation worked hard to strengthen the resolve of our Continental counterparts (the Irish are well on board!) to support our efforts to Remain. When Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, declared in his plenary speech that he regretted the UK’s departure, he was rightly heckled by London MEP Irina von Wiese, “We’re not Leaving,”

5D6E7B66-4657-4764-A539-A4A387F6AD9BSubsequently, after the Congress, a 3-month extension to Article50 was granted by the EU27 and a general election was called in Britain for 12 December, in which Brexit will inevitably be a major issue. However, the ALDE Congress agenda was much broader than that and there was a range of interesting fringe meetings, including an event put on by (the worldwide) Liberal International on fighting Fake News and Alternative Facts.

ALDE itself is a very broad church, embracing social liberals, like the UK LibDems and D66 from the Netherlands, as well as more economically conservative parties, such as the German and Swiss FDPs. But there are many strongly shared values, not least on human rights (including LGBTi matters) and environmental protection. In the European Parliament, ALDE parties are together in the Renew Europe Group with Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche from France, and with 108 MEPs — a sharp rise from 2014 — constitute the third largest grouping, with considerable influence. But one of the healthy things about the ALDE Congress is to remind us all that Europe is far wider than just the EU and that all of us have a shared European heritage, despite our glorious diversity.


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Rethinking European Treasures

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 15th January, 2014

Tsiaras ParthenonEurope is blessed with myriad iconic historic sites, from the Parthenon in Athens to the leaning tower of Pisa, all instantly recognisable even to people who have never been there. But perhaps because they are so well known and so frequently photographed we tend to take them for granted. However, the US-born Greek artist Philip Tsiaras has deconstructed these and other landmark images by adding extraneous elements, such as stones or brightly coloured confetti, so that we are forced to review what we see with a fresh eye. His prints and photographs are on display until the end of this month at the 12 Star Gallery at Europe House in Westminster until the end of the month in an exhibition, “European Treasures”, opened last night in the presence of the artist and the Greek Ambassador. As Greece has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union it was a fitting way of kicking off the gallery’s year. Philip Tsiaras is prolific and works in a variety of media, exhibiting and travelling widely out of his bases in New York and London. He told me at the vernissage that he loves the buzz of London and surprised me by praising the UK government’s decision to impose a £50,000 annual levy on wealthy foreign residents, on the grounds that then they are left alone, whereas in the US the taxman is always digging around trying to find out how much income and wealth the person really has so as to rake in more.


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Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 28th May, 2013

EuripidesaodThe ancient Greek tragedian Euripides (c484BC-c406BC) was a prolific writer with a distinctly political bent and he was composing his dramas during a period of outstanding achievements — but also risks — for his home-state, Athens. We know that one of his most forceful serial works was the Trojan Trilogy, though only the final part, The Trojan Women, survives. However, last year, the Brighton-based theatre company Actors of Dionysus (aod) performed an imaginatively reconstructed version of the first play of the trilogy, Alexandros, reworked and directed by David Stuttard, at Europe House, the headquarters of the European Commission and European Parliament’s representations in London. This evening, David and his colleagues from aod completed the resurrection with a menacingly staged reading (by torchlight) of a piece that took the few surviving fragments of the second play of the trilogy, Palamedes, and worked them into a coherent whole, again at Europe House. The scene of the action in Palamedes  is a Greek army camp, well into the long siege of Troy. The area is blanketed by fog (effectively reproduced in the performance space by having all the lights turned off); the general whose name is the title of the play is stitched up in a story employing many of the themes that would become classic in drama, through William Shakespeare and beyond: jealousy, vengeance and betrayal, foremost. The sense of foreboding was admirably intensified by a dissonant musical score by Hannah Quinn, played very softly, with the aid of a laptop computer. The company aod — currently celebrating its 20th anniversary — has ambitious plans for the future, including performances of MedeaHelen and Lysisrata next year and the complete Trojan trilogy in 2015.


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Is There Any Global Narrative to Protests?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 2nd October, 2011

This evening I took part in a TV curent affairs show in which the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were the main focus of attention. I was interested by the argument of two other participants in the discussion — far to the left of me — who declared that what was happening in New York and a growing number of cities across the US is all part of the global awakening and realisation of the wickedness of banks and the capitalist economy that has spread across North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and now North America. I remain unconvinced. I can see that there are links between the protests of people who are unemployed or worried about cuts or their pension prospects, whether they are taking place in Athens, Madrid or San Francisco. But that trend is not the same as the cry for freedom and democracy that has gone up from Tunisia to Syria. Besides, the call from some of the American marchers — and my fellow pundits who are so sympathetic towards them — was to bring down the banks. Ruin them. I am as unhappy as the next person about the obscene riches some of the top bankers have earned and the way casino banking jeopardised the world economy. But bringing down the banks is the last thing we need just at present. It would send us straight back into an even deeper recession.


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