Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Libertas launches

So, hot on the heels of its success getting a “No” in the Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum, Libertas has today relaunched as a pan-European political party. Look – it’s got a shiny new website and Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts and everything!

“If people want a strong and healthy Europe that is democratic and answerable to them, they should vote for a Libertas candidate”

All very well and good. Democracy, eh? Yep – I could go for that. Strength? Health? All sounds good. Because they’re platitudinous truisms. The same rubbish could be spouted by any and all parties.

So, what about the details of the new party’s policies and attitudes? What sort of people will be standing as candidates?

“A detailed policy document will be published in the coming months, and candidates’ names will be unveiled over a similar time frame.”

Ah… So, erm… This is a party with no policies and no candidates. Now seems a good time to repeat my comments about Libertas to a wider audience:

1) We don’t yet know how many candidates (if any) Libertas will be running, or where
2) We don’t know what their campaign is going to focus on
3) We don’t know what impact (if any) the shift from Republican to Democrat will have on them considering the allegations of their close ties to the current US administration

A genuinely pan-European pro-reform (but not anti-EU) political party could be exactly what’s needed. But there remain far too many unknowns about both Ganley and his organisation to be able to make any sensible judgements about it just yet. What is known of Ganley and his business dealings hardly makes me overly optimistic that his motives are entirely altruistic.

Having said that, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Libertas’ pro-democracy, pro-reform, pro-integration rhetoric is actually belief (the rumoured involvement of Jens-Peter Bonde is a promising sign, for example) – though I remain sceptical about the group’s motives, largely due to a combination of the secrecy that still surrounds its funding, the fact that its arguments against the Lisbon Treaty in the Irish referendum campaign largely consisted of nationalistic ones about Ireland losing influence, and thanks to most other “pro-reform” organisations in the past having turned out instead to be anti-EU. A reformist party I could get behind. Another anti-EU one in disguise? No thanks.

The clincher will be where Libertas decides to run. If it avoids putting candidates up against existing anti-EU/eurosceptic parties like UKIP or Denmark’s June Movement, that’ll be a good indication that the “reform” rhetoric is just fluff. If it DOES run against anti-EU parties, expect their share of the vote to go down. Which could, short-term, reduce the number of eurosceptics in the European Parliament – but which would, longer-term, simply lead to the current resentment continuing to grow, so that by the NEXT EP elections we might be ready for some serious changes.

I may be being unfair. The new party’s Facts page does, after all, tick most of my boxes:

“Libertas is not a Eurosceptic organisation… Our vision is of a united Europe, which recognises and respects the right of citizens and nations to choose their own destinies, but which encourages all Europeans to reach across the borders of nationality, language, and culture to participate in and invigorate a Union which equips us to meet the challenges of this next phase of European History.”

I hope I’m being unfair in doubting them. If Libertas is what it professes to be, it could be just the medicine that the EU needs to fix the ongoing stagnation and rot. But when it comes to EU reform organisations, far too many have turned out to be little more than anti-EU talking shops in disguise for me to accept this as face value just yet.

20 Comments

  1. Libertas….their the party that was getting thier funding from the CIA, UKIP right?

  2. Alleged CIA funding and links to the US military, yes. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing – remember the Marshall Plan? The US was closely involved in the European project at the start – arguably, without US involvement the EEC would never have got off the ground in the first place. And yep, UKIP did give them some money in the run-up to the referendum, if I recall.

    This could prove very amusing, actually – from the reactions I’ve seen so far, Libertas are pissing everyone off – Europhiles blasting them for being anti-EU, Eurosceptics attacking them for not being anti-EU enough.

    It all sounds rather similar to the responses I’ve had to my attitude towards the EU over the years… As such, I’m keeping an open mind about them for now – though my hunch is that this is likely to be all hype and little impact. It’s hard and expensive enough to launch a new party in one country, let alone 27 simultaneously.

  3. Let’s give them a chance. If Libertas are just another bunch of Foamers, then they won’t do the anti-EU cause any good, which badly needs someone a bit more coherent than the lot they have now.

    If they are not, good. The EU can’t go on as it is – reform is needed. It’s worth noting that this has always been the case. It’s a constantly evolving – and pretty successful – experiment in international relations. Given that it’s international environment never stops evolving, the EU will probably never stop evolving either. The question is not whether it has gone too far – it’s whether it has gone too far, too fast, and left its population behind.

    Anyway, what do you think when people like Stanley Crossick are worried about the growth of Libertas into a pan-European Euro-sceptic anti-Lisbon Treaty party. Is this an example of a Brussels elite being bothered by the ‘wrong’ democratic result, akin to Russia’s ‘managed democracy’?

  4. All opposition to European federalism is to be welcomed. The EU elite clearly have no time for democracy.

  5. The political statement is ambiguous, to say the least.

    There is still a startling discrepancy between Declan Ganley’s pro-European stance (at times) with the introverted and misleading Irish No campaign and the main body of politicians he has been associating with (recruitng) to form a ready-to-fly European level political party.

  6. With a serious anti-EU flavour – particularly demanding a referendum on the latest ‘Constitution’ thingy – everybody should be exposed to the Patriotic Poll. Get in there and vote!!!
    I have very extensive experience and contact (US more than most – who for instance is mentioned in the Congressional Record – outside the usual politicos?), and Mr Ganley may like to contact me to see if there is any room for some dialogue as to how I can assist the cause.
    atb….Nigel Kenyon

  7. Mathew / Ralf – yep. Too early to tell what Libertas is all about yet. Until the candidates and manifesto appear, we’ll have no idea.

    Mathew – I’m not sure about the resistance from the “elites”, to be honest. Because they surely must be aware that although the Lisbon Treaty may not have been BAD, exactly, it was hardly decent either. No one was happy with it, just as no one was really happy with the Constitution. Then again, a lot of Brussels insider types will have been involved in the last ten years of negotiations that the Lisbon treaty is the end result of (after all, Lisbon is meant to tidy up the loose ends left after Nice). Perhaps they just don’t like to see all their hard work go to waste, even if that work only produced something that only partially does what’s needed?

    What a lot of Brussels types seem to forget is that there were countless reasons behind the no votes in the Irish, French and Dutch referenda. Some voted against because they’re anti-EU – but many others voted against because they didn’t feel the reforms were radical enough, or they felt that the treaties were taking the EU in the wrong direction. If Libertas can offer a chance for the public to say “hang on, we like the EU but not the direction it’s heading” – even if everyone who votes for the party thinks the EU should be going in different directions – then it could still force the powers that be to actually listen to the people for a change. Which can only be a good thing.

  8. Anti – EU types are really by definition nationalists, in that they are not convinced of the need for such an international organisation, or prefer to retain the powers within their own nation, or can see that democracy is really a nationally based concept.

    Libertas is launching an EU wide party, thus it is not really anti – EU but pro-EU, it must also see the EU as the nation because it is arguing for a democratic EU.

  9. Like you Nosemonkey I’m rather sceptical about Libertas, and their statements are often contradictory. I’m also not much in favour of fighting pro-vs-anti anyway – it should be about a liberal EU, a socialist EU, a conservative EU. But let’s see what happens with this.

    I actually think you would be an ideal candidate for their lists if they run in the UK! :-)

  10. Jon,

    Some of Declan Ganley’s utterances are not that far from what you (or I) say. If the EU had a clear federal and democratic structure, it would not necessarily need more than a 15 to 25 page Constitution, because the elections would set the general course for the republic in a socialist, liberal or conservative direction, with a politically accountable government running the show.

    I don’t know how seriously you proposed Nosemonkey to stand for the European Parliament. He would, of course, be a good, thinking candidate, but as long as Libertas flirts with both a strong Europe and “souverainistes” of the backward type, the new party is far from a convincing political home for anyone who is for the idea of Europe.

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  12. Declan Ganley and Libertas are about as anti-European as it is possible to be. Don’t be taken by his press releases and PR stunts, instead listen to what he says to his American audience (at the heritage foundation) and watch what he does. Ganley is a British man living in Ireland, with American business projects. He wants to be taken seriously in Britain and America and has launched an anti-EU campaign for PR purposes. His anti-EU campaign makes the Brits and yanks feel all nice inside. However he has forgotten to point out to his American audience that the only political party in Ireland which supports his views on the Lisbon Treaty are Sinn Fein. For readers who don’t know, Sinn Fein are the political wing of the marxist/communist terrorist organisation the IRA.

    The Irish are slowly realising what a chancer Ganley really is and I predict he will disappear as quickly as he appeared. In my opinion Ganley hasn’t the intellect or talent to sustain more than the ’15 minutes of fame’ his money has bought him.

  13. Jon / Ralf – MEPs are set to get about £77k a year after the next elections, aren’t they? On those terms, I could be convinced… Heh!

    Art – 1) How is this anti-European? “I’ve got four young children. I want them to grow up in an Ireland, in a Europe that is a place that is capable of leading the world to a place that is worth going to. Yes, I have the audacity to believe that Europe can go through a renaissance. It’s capable of having the confidence, the strength, and the unity to once again lead the world or at least help lead it in a responsible way.” He’s also talked about the possibility of building “a multi-layered Europe”, something I’ve long been in favour of.

    2) Ganley is Anglo-Irish with dual nationality – born in England, but both parents are Irish – albeit raised in the UK until the age of 13.

    3) Aside from the fact that the Socialist and Socialist Workers parties were also against the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland (along with about half the Irish Greens and various other organisations of all political persuasions for a vast variety of reasons), considering the long-running financial backing of Sinn Fein and the IRA by Americans, I doubt mentioning any entirely coincidental links with their policies would have done him any harm…

    4) Am I convinced by Ganley’s rhetoric? No. Am I convinced he has everyone’s best interests at heart? No. Am I worried by the shady nature of his sources of funding? Yes. But to dismiss him outright as an “anti-European” is actually to play into his hands – all this will do is increase his chances of picking up the eurosceptic vote that he will need in order to succeed. He is sceptical, certainly – but from what he says, only of the way the EU currently works. Based on his public pronouncements, if he’s a eurosceptic or an anti-European, then so am I.

  14. Seems to me Ganley is a unionist, not a federalist nor nationalist. Completely fine by me, because I’d rather have people vote unionist than nationalist. I mean, there is some validity in his initiative in creating the first big potential pan-European party. The main problem is a lot of the parties who claim to be unionist simply are nationalist. So it remains to be seen of how he’s going to find that (undiscovered?) middle ground in the spectrum.

    For example, the June List in Sweden (controlled top-down, filled with a diverse group of political retirees and rejects) campaigned as an anti-EU party and served as a choice for disgruntled anti-integrationists. I can’t say I’ve ever met any June List voter who said they’re for the EU. I can’t say I’ve seen any party member take any positive position on anything from Brussels. So this means I could never find myself voting for them. Ever. Yet the party refer themselves as “pro-EU?” (I didn’t personally know this very fact until the day prior to election day, from a TV interview). That’s what I’m afraid Libertas could become.

  15. Leaving aside the actual positioning of Libertas within the European political spectrum, for me the most significant aspect of their establishment is their unashamedly “pan-European” stance, dedicated (only time will demonstrate how effective they are) to projecting a common policy agenda across the entire Union.

    Surely that is a revolutionary change in style worth celebrating? Apologies in advance for jumping on my hobby horse but I am constantly berating the Europe of Nations template upon which the EU has been founded from day one; an inherent flaw all too apparent when it comes to the function of political parties on the European stage. In essence they remain national parties, dressed up in faux European regalia for the circus (A.K.A. EP elections and day to day discourse within the EP) but resolutely contesting matters on more or less respective National agendas. The groupings utilised for the European Parliament are merely organisational devices designed to paper over these obvious geographical cracks. To date, only the Green Party can claim partial success in moving towards a pan-European structure but they still largely project individual National identities.

    Perhaps if Libertas do have some success this will encourage more mainstream rivals to emulate this methodology? That would be a good thing in general because it would oblige parties to develop a specifically European form of policy output. Gradually (it would take years) this would influence the public in the way they assess different policy areas, allowing citizens to place individual policies under distinct geographical umbrellas.

    If that leap forward in the way individual citizens step appraise individual policy areas could be achieved it would represent a paradigm shift in public disposition toward the entire European political agenda. Ultimately, we would end up with a European public “educated” to accept that a particular policy should be managed entirely by either European or Domestic institutions of accountable governance. Once that notion becomes orthodoxy it is but a short step to the establishment of real European governance rather than the sham version we are currently saddled with.

    Maybe all of the above is simply wishful thinking on my part but somewhat perversely I actually hope that Libertas have some modest success with their pan-European model?

  16. Your hobby horse is a good one – we have national politics trying to steer the EU. You just have to look at Belgian politics to see where this will eventually lead.

    So the emergence of a pan-EU party is worth celebrating in itself, but I really doubt it’s a model that’ll work for anything other than a party with a quite simplistic agenda that can be reinterpreted easily along national lines. I think most people will continue to view EU and international issues largely through national lenses.

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