Story of a first-time congress-goer: LYMEC Spring Congress 2024 in Brussels

The murmuring is slowly fading out. As the sunshine disappears, blue and white globes hanging from the roof of Open VLD headquarters start lighting up. Delegates are taking their places, phones and laptops are ready for voting, and the first speaker comes to the stage. With Friday slowly ending, the 2024 LYMEC Spring Congress begins. 

This Congress had it all: exciting elections for the new LYMEC Bureau, heated discussions over resolutions, and welcoming new member organizations, ending with a lot of partying, exciting conversations, full hearted laughs, and even a folk dance! But let's start at the beginning. 

Five years after the 2019 Spring Congress was held in Brussels, the city got a new opportunity to host a LYMEC Congress from the 22nd until the 24th of March, and what a host it was. Our friends from Jong VLD did a marvelous job during the entire Congress, from the beginning to the end. Two events preceded the official opening of the Congress. Our partners from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation organized a workshop, “Disinformation as a tool for illiberal agendas, how to address this threat?“ followed by a gathering of participants from the Young Changemaker's Academy organized by the European Liberal Forum. These events provide an opportunity for the delegates to meet before the official start of the Congress, discuss in detail issues they care about, and get educated about some of the most pressing problems we face today. Filled with positive energy from fringe events, we were ready to begin the first day of Congress. 

Congress started with an opening speech delivered by LYMEC’s outgoing president Dan-Aria Sucuri. After the official opening of the Congress, our liberal friends from all around Europe inspired us with their speeches. Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib reminded us of the importance liberalism plays today, Co-President of ALDE Ilhan Kyuchyuk pointed out that our biggest strength lies in unity, Executive Director of ELF Alva Finn energized us with her uplifting speech, and the Secretary General of Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of Regions Sean O'Curneen underlined the importance of youth in politics. The first round of guest speeches ended with two video messages: first from Valérie Hayer, MEP and President of the Renew Europe Group, and the second from Hilde Vautmans, MEP from our hosts Open VLD. 

With the first roll call of the evening, the delegates got ready to roll up their sleeves and start discussing and voting on resolutions and reports. After a couple of hours of work, we neared the finish of the first day of Congress which was closed with a speech by the President of Mouvement Réformateur Georges-Louis Bouchez, followed by remarks by the International Officer of Open VLD, Eva De Bleeker. With the first day of Congress behind us, everyone eagerly went in line to wait for the greatest Belgian-style dinner – fries! A lot of them! With

food in one hand and a drink in the other, delegates and guests buzzed around the Open VLD headquarters, undoubtedly the heart of European liberalism that night. The night was still young as we headed out for a few more hours of talking with old friends from earlier congresses and introducing ourselves to new friends we hadn't had a chance to meet yet, all whilst losing our voices while singing at a karaoke bar.

The second day of the Congress was filled with voting on new member organizations, new LYMEC Bureau members, and resolutions. We welcomed a new associate member organization into our liberal family – the 3H Movement from Turkey who have inspired many in LYMEC with their fight to spread liberal ideas and encourage young people to engage in democracy amidst Erdogan’s authoritarianism. After that, Congress unanimously approved full membership for our associate members, NEO.DEPA from Cyprus and Gibanje Svoboda Mladi from Slovenia, both of whom have proven their capacity to contribute to our work across Europe, and offer truly liberal solutions to our shared challenges. 

After welcoming our new member organizations, we were ready for the most nail-biting part of the Congress: Bureau elections! Every two years, Congress chooses the new leadership of LYMEC, which includes the positions of president, vice-president, treasurer, LYMEC Bureau members, IFLRY representative, and internal auditors. These elections always attract a significant number of talented young people from across Europe, all of them eager to improve our organization with their ideas and tireless work. The same was the case this time with one of the most competitive elections in a long time! 

The presidential elections finished very quickly, with the former vice-president, Ines Holzegger from JUNOS (Austria), getting the overwhelming support of member organizations to take on the leadership of our organisation. The results of the vice presidential election were uncertain until the last moment, with two great candidates and former bureau members competing for a single spot of vice president. In the end, Alexandre Servais from Jeunese MR (Belgium) won the support of the majority of delegates and secured his place as Vice-President for the next two years. Elections for the treasurer saw Marten Porte from Jonge Democraten (the Netherlands) winning another two-year term as our Treasurer after he took over the role at the end of last year. 

However, the excitement didn’t end there. The Bureau elections were particularly interesting, with eight candidates running for four spots on LYMEC’s Bureau. We saw an incredibly competitive election between a range of talented and experienced candidates. After their introductory speeches, delegates made sure every candidate was put through their paces, and plenty of questions were asked. When the speeches finished, delegates voted, and we all held our breaths. After the votes were counted, it was announced that the next LYMEC Bureau members would be Dimitra Papadopoulou from JuLis (Germany), Wilemijn Krans from JOVD (the Netherlands), individual member Sorcha Ní Chonghaile (Ireland) and Sean Bennett from the Young Liberals (United Kingdom). With congratulations to the winning candidates, it’s also important to praise the campaigns of other candidates who didn’t get

elected. The effort they invested in reaching out to member organizations, answering tough questions, and arguing for their positions is really astonishing! 

Finally, Congress proceeded to vote for internal auditors and LYMEC representatives for IFLRY. Congratulations to Petrine Louise Johannesen from Venstres Ungdom (Denmark) and Alex Nilsson from LUF (Sweden), who were chosen as LYMEC internal auditors. Baptiste Martinez from FEL (Belgium) and individual member Christopher Jefferies (Italy) were also elected as their substitutes, in case one or both are unable to complete their terms of office. Ioana Abaseaca from USR Tineret (Romania) won the overwhelming support of delegates and was elected as the LYMEC representative to IFLRY. 

After approving the appointment of Marina Sedlo (Germany), Keith Henry (Ireland), Peter Banks (United Kingdom), Rasmus Festerling Sorensen (Denmark), and Doris Lisett Rudnevs (Estonia) to our Committee of Discipline and Arbitrage, the Congress could move to the discussing submitted resolutions. 

Unfortunately, only three out of twenty-six resolutions got a chance to be discussed, but that doesn't mean the discussion wasn't fierce and fruitful. This was made clear after Congress unanimously accepted the resolution calling for an end to homophobic and transphobic conversion therapies. This resolution, which reaffirms our commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Europe, was co-submitted by Venstre Ungdom (Norway) and Alliance Youth (Northern Ireland) and is a testament to what our members achieve when they co-operate on their motions. The second approved resolution was submitted by JuLis (Germany) and it called for our partners from the ALDE party to continue its commitment to not working with far-right parties in the European Parliament; an issue that is especially significant today as we see a rise in right-wing rhetoric all across Europe. 

After our resolution debates were finished, the Congress was officially closed by an inspiring and uplifting speech by Ines Holzegger, our newly elected president. With Congress being officially closed, the delegates went to a wonderful closing reception organized by our friends from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation which we owe a huge thanks, not only for this reception but for all the support they give to LYMEC and liberals across Europe every day. It was fascinating to hear about the work they are doing and it is clear that they are an indispensable ally in our fight for liberalism. We laughed, we talked, we toasted, we sang, and finally, we concluded our gathering with a traditional Balkan kolo. What more could a person ask from a LYMEC Congress? 

As someone attending their first LYMEC Congress, I had to ask myself, does this always happen? Are all congresses this interesting? Will I ever see another Congress as engaging, well-organized, and exciting as this one? However, as a liberal, always believing that our future is bright, I do not doubt that the next one will be at least as great as this one. I can’t wait to see all of you again with renewed ideas, passion, and energy in autumn!

 

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) alone. These views do not necessarily reflect those of LYMEC.

Anes Hodžić

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Anes Hodžić
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