Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Front’

ELDR Council in Dresden

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 21st May, 2011

There was a time, not all that many years ago, when most of the meetings of the governing Council of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) were held in Brussels. But these days they occur all over the Continent, both to give the participants a taste of the local sister party and its activities as well as to generate some publicity in the city or country concerned. Thanks to the German Free Democrats (FDP), this weekend’s Council was in Dresden, capital of the Free State of Saxony and known as Paris on the Elbe before the British bombed it to smithereens during the Second World War. Although I did travel a lot in the old DDR (East Germany), I had never been to Dresden until now, so it was interesting to see how much of the old city — including the celebrated Frauenkirche — has been rebuilt or refurbished, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Saxony had a standard of living well below the European Union average when German reunification took place, but the city benefited greatly from funds made available under the EU’s Cohesion Policy, which was the subject of a seminar attached to the Council meeting. It was good to hear from several Saxon state Ministers at the event, as well as the UK LibDems’ own Flo Clucas, who extolled how EU funds had helped Liverpool regenerate once the Trots were ousted from control of that city. The ELDR Council itself is largely an administrative affair (including the passing of urgency resolutions on such issues as human rights in Russia and threats to the Schengen Agreement), but there was a worthwhile session led by Mohammed Nosseir of Egypt’s Democratic Front on how Europe should respond to the Arab Awakening — a theme much preoccupying me at the moment and one which the ELDR will doubtless return to at its Congress in Palermo in November.


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Liberalism in Egypt

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th June, 2008

We had an excellent day seminar in Cairo today, on the challenges facing Liberal values in Egypt, organised by the local Democratic Front (a newly registered Liberal party, which is an observer member to Liberal International), with financial assistance and participation from the UK Liberal Democrats, with assistance from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Among the approximately 100 Egyptian participants were not only members of the Democratic Front, but also representatives of the venerable El Wafd party and the much newer (and currently somewhat besieged) El Ghad, as well as academics and journalists.

I gave two presentations: on the history of the British Liberal Party, and on the question of whether values of human rights, freedom and democracy are universal. The latter is something I often lecture on at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and it’s a burning issue in the Middle East. George W Bush has been trying to export an American template which, as I said, is not wholly accepted in Europe, let alone elsewhere in the world. Democracy, in particular, has to be fashioned in a way that corresponds to the specific realities of each individual country, though the broad principle of bottom-up legitimacy of power is something that can be generally valid.

Of course, it is much more difficult to promote Liberal values in developing countries with high levels of poverty and illiteracy, where the prime concern of most people — including in Egypt — is day-to-day survival. So it is likely that Liberalism has quite a long haul in Egypt, even though the country actually had a rather vibrant Liberal political environment before the British squashed it in 1882. The country is very much in transition, however — even if most people appear to be unsure of where that transition is going.


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