Last week, from the 2nd to the 4th of June about 30 young Liberal councilors from across Europe convened in Brussels in a joint ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR)/ LYMEC event under the title Local going European: Introducing young liberals to the work of the Committee of the Regions.
The event kicked off at the headquarters of ALDE Party and LYMEC, with participants presenting themselves, and LYMEC President Vedrana GUJIC presenting LYMEC’s work. After this, Vytautas ZUKAUSKAS from the Lithuanian Free Market Institute presented the Index of Municipal Performance – an instrument to assess the good performance of local governance with regards Liberal principles. Participants discussed the relevance of ideological principles in local principle and the multiple ways to verify the application of such principles, given that Liberalism itself is a diverse political family. The session was moderated by Julie CANTALOU, European Affairs Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
The first day ended with the monthly Liberal Drinks, taking place every first Tuesday of the month. Participants got the oppoprtunity to meet with other Liberals living and working in Brussels, networking and exchanging their views in a relaxed envionment.
The second day started with a presentation of the Committee of the Regions by Sean O’CURNEEN, Secretary General of the ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions. Participants were informed of the relevance and the role of the CoR in the European institutional framework.
After this, ALDE-CoR members Roger ALBINYANA I SAIGÍ, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Catalonia (and former LYMEC Secretary General and President) and Kate FEENEY, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Councillor, Ireland (and former president of LYMEC’s member organization Ógra Fianna Fáil) presented their activities in the Committee. They stressed the importance of local politics and the mutual influence of local and European governance.
The morning ended with young councilors joining the group meeting of ALDE-CoR, preceding the plenary session. Our participants had the chance of seeing live how our group discusses and decides its common positions. Greated by Bas VERKERK, president of ALDE-CoR, participoants took a group photo before leaving the CoR.
During lunchtime the group was hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung (FNF). There, participants had the opportunity to hear from Hans STEIN, Director for European and Transatlantic Dialogue, about FNF’s work in bringing the European level closer to the common citizen (for example through cartoon competitions) and to young people, through its multiple events, wrokshops and capacity building seminars.
In the afternoon our young councilors gathered in the hemicycle of the European Parliament as guests during the plenay session of the Committee of the Regions. Besides seeing the functionning of the plenary, they could also hear, among others, MEP Guy VERHOFSTADT, leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, in his address to the CoR.
After a short break the second day finished with a dinner and launch of the joint European Liberal Forum (ELF)/ LYMEC book Tackling regional disparities through growth – Young Liberal Perspectives. The book was introduced by Andreja POTOČNIK, Member of the Committee of the Regions, Member of the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Tržič. Vedrana GUJIC, President of LYMEC moderated a session where three of the authors (Sid LUKKASSEN, Manel MSALMI and Igor CALDEIRA, LYMEC Secretary General and project coordinator) introduced their articles. Felicita MEDVED, President of the European Liberal Forum, made the closing remarks, welcoming the role of young people in rethinking the role of local government.
During the morning of the third and last day participants visited the municipality of Uccle/Ukkel, where ALDE-CoR member Jean-Luc VANRAES seats as a councilor for his party, Open VLD, in an alliance with the other Belgian Liberal party, Mouvement Réformateur (MR). The mayor, from MR, Armand DEDECKER, also addressed our councilors. Mr. VANRAES explained his involvement with the CoR, his work in his municipality, and his firm belief in the need for a good interaction between the European and the local levels. He also stressed the importance of ALDE-CoR in guaranteeing that link within our Liberal family.
The event closed with a visit ti the municipal social services of Ukkel/Uccle and explanation of the several services provided to the population.
LYMEC is thrilled for this opportunity to gather young councilors in Brussels and thanks the ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions for allowing this event to take place. Local politics is where the overwhelming majhority of young politicians start their careers and we firmly belief that we must engage with young councilors even more. We look forward for more opportunities for cooperation between us and our group at the CoR!