Monday, 19 May 2014

A Europe that Works: the Liberal Manifesto

One of the main gripes I had with Guy Verhofstadt's performance in the debate last week was the lack of any policy ideas (certainly not unique to him, however), so let's take a look at the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe's (ALDE) manifesto to see if it puts any meat on the federalist bones.

The slogan for the Liberals is "A Europe that Works", and the manifesto (PDF) stresses market integration and the defense of civil liberties. ALDE, like the AECR, also promotes the cutting of red tape, though from a more federalist perspective where the red tape is 28 sets of national rules that impede the single market. The Liberals want to "reinforce the single market in energy, the digital market, financial services, transport and healthcare sectors, while further facilitating the free movement of services and workers."

On the economy, trade and jobs, ALDE is for an EU-US Trade Agreement, easier access to finance for SMEs, a genuine single market in telecommunications (phasing out mobile phone voice and data roaming charges by 2016), and a "fifth freedom" of free movement of knowledge. This free movement of knowledge would focus on mobility for students, academics and researchers between Member States and would support dual training, university and enterprise across borders. ALDE wants a shift from EU support under structural and cohesion funds towards research and investment in "future oriented sectors such as the renewable energy sources sector".

Overall, ALDE wants to limit EU spending on subsidies and move the money towards job creation and investment. I assume that this means that EU money should be attached to particular cross-border infrastructure projects and the free movement of knowledge mentioned earlier. Another goal of ALDE s to have the Member States providing declarations that the EU money spent with them is spent legally and certifying it as adding value. (If memory serves a similar Dutch proposal went down like a lead balloon because the other Member States didn't want to risk getting blamed for the misspending of EU funds or to spend resources on the accounting).

On the Common Agricultural Policy, ALDE will shift EU support from subsidies to modern agricultural technologies and their introduction into farming. Similar to its general economic policy, the Liberals appear to go against direct subsidies, but want government support for developing new methods and technologies before introducing them into the market.

ALDE essentially supports the current Eurozone austerity approach: "Fiscal solidarity depends on fiscal discipline which avoids moral hazard and does not reduce economics incentives for sound public finance." They support the banking union and want better control and sanction mechanisms to enforce the stability and growth pact. On justice and home affairs, ALDE supports the Common European Asylum System and wants a common cybersecurity policy. They want to create a mechanism to monitor violations of fundamental rights in the EU and enforce sanctions - a policy clearly inspired by the concern over the constitutional changes in Hungary.

Overall, ALDE are standing on a economically right-wing platform mixed with strong support for fundamental rights and civil liberties in the area of justice and home affairs. Economically, it is probably quite close to the AECR and the EPP and would have few problems forming a coalition with them, but when it comes to civil liberties, justice and home affairs, and European integration, it is probably closer to the PES and European Greens. If you're attracted to liberal free markets and value a good voice on civil liberties when the EU is considering laws like the Arrest Warrant, ALDE might be for you.

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