Category "Blog"

More than a thousand delegates from all over Europe are attending the ALDE party congress in Amsterdam. Among those delegates are many with top level political positions in Europe, including five liberal prime-ministers. Several European Commissioners, European Parliament members and national parliamentarians are also contributing to the three-day long Congress.

Yohan Byrde, the political leader of the third liberal party in the Netherlands is also attending. He is heading a delegation from the Progressive Liberal Democratic Party, which is preparing for the elections in 2019. The PLDP is eager and hopeful to join the ALDE family in Brussels.

From the start of the opening of the 38th ALDE Congress it is clear that the political group is feeling bold and that the recent electoral successes of many liberal parties across Europe have provided new political energy. In many European countries liberals play a key role. Whereas in the past, liberal parties were at times kingmakers, it is now often the rule that it is the liberals themselves who become the new kings, or from a more liberal perspective, prime-minsters.

If big is beautiful in politics, than by the scale of the dreams put forth by the speakers and the reactions from the audience, it is quite certain that the ALDE party is currently the most beautiful girl in town.

The ALDE President Hans van Baalen opened the Congress with a passion and drive from someone who knows he is on the best team, part of the fastest growing family and on the right side of history. The many electoral national successes over the past year should be a stepping stone for more. The ALDE president painted a grand picture of the near future where the liberals could become the biggest party at the European Parliament elections in 2019. A new wind is blowing through the institutions in Brussels and no longer is it the two old crocodiles, EPP and S&D, who have divided the shares for so long, that determine the outcome of the political discussion. Mr. Van Baalen called out to the audience to remind them that the liberal political successes in national elections should also be used to appoint liberals in the various European institutions which are now almost exclusively being held by conservatizes and socialists.

The ALDE president was followed by the ALDE party group leader Guy Verhofstadt who in his characteristic enthusiasm for an open and free society looked back as well as forward to the many political challenges. At the close of 2016 the prospects for the liberals looked dim with populism rising everywhere. Many thought that after Trump and Brexit there would be a domino effect. However, in 2017 politics took another turn. Populists didn’t win in The Netherlands, France or Germany. Instead, it was the liberals who gained momentum. There is now a liberal government in The Netherlands. In France, president Macron, who is in many respects a liberal, might join forces with ALDE after the 2019 EP elections. ALDE should take the initiative and become again the main driving force to remodel the European institutions in order to become more effective; European-wide electoral lists, democratic decision-making instead of unanimity and institutional reform. The biggest threat is not the rise of populism but the fear of change. We should believe in a better future and not be nostalgic about the past. After the defeat of nationalism, socialism and conservatism it is up to the values of liberalism to determine the future. From the reactions of the audience it appears that they are ready.

The following speakers were as upbeat about the opportunities for the liberal parties as the ALDE leaders. Alexander Pechtold, the political leader of the Dutch political party D66, shared his ambition to adapt the EU to the 21st century. He provided a list of concrete and specific actions that need to be taken to make the EU a world leader in the fight against climate change and to be the starkest defender of democracy. D66, meaning Democrats 1966, has been a defender of democracy for its 51 years’ history. It battles enemies from within, like Geert Wilders and his populist PVV, and from without. Always with the conviction that the liberal values provide the life essence for an open and free society. Among the specific actions that Mr. Pechtold mentioned is the idea to use the seats that will become vacant in 2019 due to the leave of the UK, for European-wide electoral lists.

EC Commissioner Margrete Vestager asked the audience how to renew democracy. According to Ms. Vestager we need to renew the re-use of the institutions we already have in place. Europe is the best place to live in for minorities as well as for majorities. The foundations of the institutions that shape our society are sound and are even more important than the immediate views of the majority. People can be swept away by emotions and make the wrong decisions in the process. Our institutions are there to safeguard our future success from our inevitable, occasional and very human mistakes. As the Commissioner for Competition Ms. Vestager is dedicated to harnessing the forces of globalization so that they work for all and not just for the very few.

Prime-minister Xavier Bettel of Luxemburg had a personal message where he clearly showed what it means to be a European and to be part of a social and political project that has brought peace and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people. He himself has four grandparents from four different religions and nationalities. Even that generation considered itself in a fundamental way to be European. Prime-minister Bettel told the audience that in order to win the upcoming elections it will be important to have solidarity and unity between the parties. The liberals are the bloc against populism.

The question on how to renew democracy was the subject of the plenary debate that followed the key note speeches. This debate offered strongly felt views on the nature of liberalism and how modern democracy should be defended against anti-liberal views and standpoints. Several of the speakers also made their case to have liberalism and populism as opposing forces. Whether or not populism deserves to be on the same ideological level as liberalism with its long and successful history is however doubtful. The fact is nonetheless that in many of the recent elections the liberals were the strongest and most vocal opponents of the populists.

Bart Somers, the mayor of Mechelen and the president of the Committee of the Regions was clear about his political vision. The age-old frame of left versus right is not working anymore. The 21st century needs a new debate with new answers. These answers should come from the liberal values that lie at the core of the European project. Populism is the enemy of liberalism. The populists reject diversity and have as their purpose to destroy our freedom, values and the EU. In their fight against these values they use the narrative of the open society, but they mean exactly the opposite. It is reminiscent of George Orwells 1984, where the Ministry of Peace is only working on war. Mr. Somers made a clear point that the essence of liberalism is that it makes different identities possible. You can be Flemish, Belgian, European, liberal and father at the same time. Populists main goal however is to reduce everyone to one identity. You have no freedom without diversity and no diversity without freedom.

Albert Rivera, the political leader of the Spanish party Cs sees a great future for his liberal party. Although they currently have 13 percent of the electorate behind them, the polls are much more favorable. Furthermore, the party doesn’t just talk to its supporters. It talks to the majority. The Cs party is not business friendly but market friendly and is honest about the EU. The EU means better services for lower prices. It serves the ordinary people and provides them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. It is Mr. Rivera’s vision that people are waiting for the truth and not the post-truth of the populists. They say the past is better than the future. Liberals say the opposite. We should think with our dreams and not with our fears. Populists say what language you need to speak and what flag to support. Liberals believe in free choices. In order to win the 2019 European elections the liberals should focus on values and not on left or right politics. We are also pro-EU and want the market to work for the citizens.

EC Commissioner Margrete Vestager was the third person on the panel and she also had many things to say about the workings of the EU and how to deal with the many political challenges. One main point that stood out was her position that liberals should not see the populists as enemies. Competitors maybe. We should meet them in an open space and convince the electorate that the solutions offered by the populists are not realistic. We must confront the populists and the general electorate with the confidence that our values are the basis of a fair and just society that brings peace and prosperity to all. No-one wants to be told what to do and we should not tell people that the EU is good for them. We need to show them. With 500 million citizens we can stand up to the big multinationals and have them play by our, democratic, rules. It is also good to make it clear to those who criticize the EU that it is more democratic than most national democracies and that it works in the best interests of the citizens of Europe.

The president of the Committee of the Regions, Mr. Bart Somers closed the panel debate with an example of his experience as the mayor of Mechelen. Groupthink is the most destructive force in politics. Left and right make caricatures of each other. They refuse to see the positive role models that would weaken their monolithic views of the situation. Liberals are more honest and rise above these caricatures. Liberals are not part of the left versus right debate. For them it is the question of an open versus a closed society that is driving the liberal political standpoints. We will win the elections in 2019. Liberalism is the project of the future.

For more information about the congress please visit the website of ALDE at www.aldeparty.eu. The homepage for the event can be accessed here: https://www.aldeparty.eu/events/alde-party-congress-amsterdam-2017

Jeroen Zandberg, 1 december 2017

A manifestation and conference to celebrate the new Chameria constitution and government was held in Vlorë, Albania on Saturday 30 September 2017. It was organized by Chameria President Festim Lato.

A large crowd from all over Albania and Kosovo came to listen to speeches by the cabinet members of the newly established Chameria government. INEX president, the Honorable Yohan Byrde, also held an intense speech where he explained the political and diplomatic campaign that INEX is leading in order to get international support for Chameria and to rally the people behind the set objectives on getting self-determination for Chameria.

The other speakers included Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, Minister of Interior Affairs Rrustem Geci, INEX Diplomatic Chief of Staff Jeroen Zandberg and many others.

A business delegation from the Netherlands that seeks to invest in Chameria to support the Cham people also joined the conference. Businessman Mary van Soomeren has been a long-time friend of Chamerian President Festim Lato and made several strong remarks for the Cham people to close ranks and work together with president Festim Lato and become a citizen of the Republic of Chameria: http://www.republicofchameria.org/citizenship-registration/

The manifestation can be watched here.

 

On 20 September 2017, INEX president Yohan Byrde, Chief of Staff Jeroen Zandberg, Political Advisor Ruud Lammers and Chamerian president Festim Lato participated in a conference in Brussels organized by the ALDE party and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

The event with Estonian Prime-Minister Jüri Ratas focused on the Estonian Presidency of the EU, which is currently half way. The Prime-Minister shared a positive and hopeful vision of the current and future state of the EU. It is the mission of Estonia to increase the diplomatic ties between the members of the Union and focus on the shared values that bring the European nations together. As a nation that lived under Soviet rule for decades, Estonia remains sensitive and open to the partner countries who are at the moment outside of the European Union. The Estonian border is that of NATO and the EU. The EU will not leave the Eastern Neighborhood partnership out in the cold. The prime-minister said that what we should do is to make the points that we want to reach more practical and realistic. Concrete steps are good. There is an Eastern Partnership Center in Estonia, where we work with local government and others. These are very concrete things. There will be an Eastern Neighborhood Partnership summit in Brussel in November where we hope to find new steps.

In response to a question on the violation of the rights of Chameria to their own identity, the prime-minister emphasized that he is a strong proponent of implementing the rights of nations and peoples to become fully European and enlarging the community, thereby strengthening Europe. We need to move forward and leave anti-liberal views behind.

An important part of the speech of the prime-minister focused on data, access to information and cybersecurity. Estonia is a leader in this field and actively works on creating a digital Europe. The future is digital. It is the coal and steel of this century. In this vision it is crucially important that the digital single market becomes a reality. A digital Europe should be based on a fifth freedom; that of the freedom of movement of data. Estonia is very much in favor of the EU strategy on cybersecurity and welcomes the act regulating the free movement of data.

The event was followed by a short reception where INEX president Yohan Byrde had the opportunity to discuss with the prime-minister in preparation for the upcoming meetings INEX has in Estonia in October.

For more information on the event please visit the websites of the organizers:

https://www.aldeparty.eu/news/estonian-prime-minister-juri-ratas-our-future-will-be-digital

https://www.freiheit.org/digital-pur-der-eu

InterNations Exchange organized a conference in The Hague, the Netherlands where the new constitution of the Republic of Chameria was unveiled and the new government officials were presented.

On 9 September 2017, at a well-attended ceremony in The Hague, the Netherlands, the new constitution of the Republic of Chameria was unveiled. This document sets out the jurisdiction of the government of Chameria and defines the rights, duties and obligations of the appointed and elected government officials. It also provides a framework for the rights of Chamerian citizens who can from this day onward turn to the constitution for their inalienable rights as a global and national citizen and human being.

Following the declaration of independence on 31 October 2016, a constitutional assembly chaired by Yohan Byrde and Festim Lato held a number of sessions during the year of 2017 to prepare the articles that form the basis of the constitution of the Republic of Chameria. This fully democratic constitution contains over a hundred articles that lay out the structures of government and the rights and duties of its subjects.

The new leaders of the Republic of Chameria signed an official certificate of establishment showing their commitment to the government and their willingness to abide by international regulations that outline the rule of conduct between nations.

The Chamerian nation is now presented by a government consisting of the following officials:

  • President: Festim Lato
  • Prime-Minister: Ali Aliu
  • Minister of Interior Affairs: Rrustem Geci
  • Minister of Justice: Elena Kocaqi
  • Minister of Economy and Finance: Idajet Jahaj
  • Minister of Education and Social Affairs: Ilda Prifti
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Jona Mustafa
  • Special Advisor, Secretary of State Foreign Affairs and Ambassador: Yohan Byrde.

The event attracted a diverse audience from all over Europe who witnessed the installation of the first official government of Chameria based on the new constitution.

The day started with a ceremony followed by a number of speeches that highlighted the struggle of the Chamerian people who have endured great hardships and have, through endurance and visionary leadership, come to a point where they can become a fully active member of the international community.

The various cabinet members were inaugurated and shared their perspectives on the history and politics of Chameria with a strong focus on the road that lies ahead.

The new constitution and the formation and inauguration of the government of the republic also made it possible to start with the procedure to grant citizenship to all the individual Cham people. The event was therefore also a launchpad for this process.

Furthermore, the struggle for recognition of Chameria as an independent nation among nations continues with the plan to set up diplomatic posts in many of the worlds capitals before the end of the year.

A video of the event will be published shortly

PROGRAM

13.30                                    Registration and coffee and tea

14.00                                    Introduction, Elena Kocaqi, Government of Chameria

14.10                                     Presentation, Jeroen Zandberg, INEX Chief of Staff

14.25                                     Presentation, Yohan Byrde, INEX President

14.45                                     Presentation, Ali Aliu, Prime-Minister of Chameria

15.00                                     Presentation, Festim Lato, President Chameria

15.20                                     Official signing of establishment of the Republic of Chameria

15.30                                     Appointment and swearing in of the Cabinet of the Republic of Chameria

15.50                                     Presentation of the constitution

16.00                                     End of ceremony.

 

—-

 

 

From 3 to 6 September 2017, INEX president Yohan Byrde, Chief of Staff Jeroen Zandberg and Advisor Ruud Lammers visited Greece to meet with parliamentarians and government officials.

The delegation visited the Greek parliament in Athens and met with several ministers and other high-profile parliamentarians in order to lay the groundwork for the start of a diplomatic negotiation process between Chameria and Greece. The results of this successful mission provide another step towards greater freedom and recognition for the Chamerian people and a new diplomatic partnership. A full Parliamentary investigation will be launched on this critical issue.

The delegation also met with several other government officials in Athens and in Chameria.

On 1 September 2017, INEX participated in a conference in the Dutch parliament organized by the Atlantic Commission on the challenges of UN peacekeeping. In an interactive setting the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations Jean-Pierre Lacroix presented the views of the United Nations and discussed challenges for today’s peacekeeping with the participants of the conference.

The main challenges to peace keeping according to the Under Secretary General are: 1. Peacekeeping supports finding political solutions, but the increasingly diverging views on what describes a fair and just political solution make this very difficult; 2. The increasingly difficult security environment; 3. The pressure on the resources and budget of the United Nations.

Public image of peacekeeping

The Under Secretary General emphasized that although the public image of UN peacekeeping is not good the UN missions are nevertheless vital to peace and security around the globe. For example, without the UN mission to Mali, MINUSMA, the country would probably have disintegrated causing more hardship for the people and for the region as a whole.

The UN tries to be as open and transparent about its actions as possible and also tries to manage expectations, since usually the mandate given to the UN is greater than the actual resources at its disposal. The UN hopes that this strategy will be successful in showing people the importance of peacekeeping missions and that it reaches maximal results with minimal means.

Partnerships and regional focus

Another part of the debate focused on the evolving nature of conflicts around the world. Whereas in the past many conflicts were within individual countries, most conflicts today have a regional character, whereas the peacekeeping missions are always in just one country. A good example is Mali, where the UN currently has the MINUSMA mission. Although the peacekeeping mission is in an individual country the UN actively tries to involve all the players in the conflict. In the Malian conflict this is done in the G5 Sahel group, where the neighbors are active partners in trying to resolve the conflict.

Following this debate the Under Secretary General also mentioned that the UN actively tries to get partnerships running with regional organisations, like the European Union and the African Union. This global approach of outsourcing the spread and management of peace is a priority for the current Secretary General.

INEX is a great supporter of the strategy of regional cooperation and creating partnerships with likeminded groups and is itself engaged in promoting dialogue and peace between groups.

Yohan Byrde, INEX president, participated in the debate as well as Jeroen Zandberg and representatives from Chameria: President Festim Lato, Mr. Ali Aliu and Mr. Blendon Gerguri.

As part of the global diplomatic effort to get international attention for the cause of Chameria, a delegation travelled to Italy for a ten-day mission to meet with government officials. The delegation visited the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Italian Senate. Furthermore, the delegation travelled to the independent countries of Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican where INEX president Yohan Byrde and Chamerian president Festim Lato presented diplomatic letters to the governments of the various republics.

For many years Chameria was completely unknown to most people. The opponents of the rights of the Cham people were highly successful in deleting the centuries’ old history of Chameria from the international collective consciousness. Efforts made by individuals to re-organize the people around the Cham issue during the past few decades resulted in some successes, especially in Albania and among the Albanian- and Chamerian diaspora. The declaration of independence on 30 October 2016 and the cooperation between the Chamerian government and InterNations Exchange which started at the end of June 2017, led to a much needed internationalization of the Chamerian struggle. This brought the issue for the self-determination of Chameria to the next level.

The crucial step towards international diplomatic and political recognition of the historical rights of Chameria continues with this ten-day mission in August 2017 to Italy, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican. The four person delegation, consisting of INEX president Yohan Byrde, Chamerian president Festim Lato, as well as Mr Rrustem Geci and Mr Jeroen Zandberg visited these four countries and met with various government officials.

In the Principality of Monaco the delegation visited the Prince’s palace and was able to meet with the Prince’s Chief of the Guard and Senior Commander who represents Monaco as the second ranked official after the Prince. The delegation presented an official diplomatic letter about the situation of Chameria, requesting assistance from the Prince in getting the case on the international agenda. The delegates were also invited to sign the official diplomatic guest book of the Prince.

In Rome, the delegation visited the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Senate, to inform politicians and government officials of the struggle of Chameria and request for their assistance. The delegation was given the opportunity to explain the situation in great detail and was met with great curiosity about the specific historical events and claims surrounding Chameria. This is also very important in light of the fact that there is a large diaspora of more than a million people of Albanian and Chamerian descent living in Italy.

In the mission to get as much international support for the cause of Chameria as possible, the delegation also travelled to the Vatican. The delegation was warmly welcomed there by a representative of the Pope. The diplomatic letters, as well as the book on the history of Chameria, written by Chamerian president Festim Lato and Mr. Rrustem Geci, were presented to the Inspector General. He informed the delegation that the Holy Father would read the diplomatic letters and that there would be a possibility of a private audience at a later date.

Finally, the delegation visited the mountainous country of San Marino, which is one of the oldest republics in Europe. The delegation had meetings with government officials from various ministries to discuss the strengthening of political and diplomatic ties within the European Union and between San Marino and Chameria. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister responsible for European Affairs as well as the Director of Economic Affairs were so open to accept the diplomatic letters presented to them by the delegation and prepare their agenda’s for follow up meetings. This concluded a highly successful mission to get international support for Chameria.

A political delegation headed by InterNations EXchange (INEX) president and chairman of the EU advisory commission Yohan Byrde, visited this first week of August, together with the Prime-Minister of Chameria, Festim Lato, the European Parliament and the European Commission in order to plead for the rights of Chameria.

Chameria is a region in northwestern Greece which was originally inhabited by the Albanian-Cham people. Many of them were driven out of their lands during World War II and they currently try to regain their cultural, economical and political rights. In the hope of getting recognition for their democratic rights they now turn to the European Union. The INEX president states that the recognition of democratic rights should be guaranteed for all Europeans and that only the best interpretation and implementation should be a point of discussion.

The delegation visited the European Parliament and had meetings with representatives of European political parties and the Commission. They explained the situation of Chameria and the method of INEX to arrive at a fair solution that does justice to the European values. The positive reactions and the follow up meetings which have been set show that the European family is open to newcomers in whatever form that may be.

On 16 to 19 July 2017, Yohan Byrde headed a 5 person delegation from InterNations EXchange to Israel. The delegation had several meetings with representatives of the municipalities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as with government officials from various ministries, among which the prime minister’s office. This planned official visit laid the groundwork for cooperation on multiple levels of governance and is another step in expanding INEX’s global network of political and diplomatic partnership for peace.

Along with INEX president Yohan Byrde and the vice-president Jeroen Zandberg, three representatives from Chameria, among which the Prime Minister Festim Lato, made up the delegation. Chameria is a region in Northwestern Greece originally inhabited by Cham people who were expelled to Albania during World War II. INEX is representing the Cham in their struggle to get recognition for their plight.

The delegation presented historical documents about Chameria, as well as diplomatic letters to government officials in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The positive reception of the INEX delegation and its planned follow up meetings is a clear sign of a future partnership in making the world more inclusive and just.

Israel is one of the world’s senior democracies and is dedicated to upholding the values of democracy and human rights. Furthermore, it’s Jewish character makes it an unique partner for more global awareness for peaceful identity politics and diplomacy. Added to this is the fact that there is a substantial Jewish cultural influence on the Chamerian people. For example, the mother of the Chamerian Prime Minister is herself of Jewish origin.

INEX sees the country of Israel, as well as its major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as an important global partner in striving for world peace and recognition of neglected human and cultural rights of unrepresented peoples.

The first week of July 2017, INEX president Yohan Byrde and the vice-president Jeroen Zandberg travelled to Albania and Greece to meet with Chamerian representatives and lay the groundwork for the campaign to garner international support for the plight of the Chamerian people.

The delegation met with various representatives, attended a conference and participated in a cultural event by the Cham people in Southern Albania. Furthermore, the delegation met with survivors of the expulsion of Cham people from Greece during World War II. The series of interviews with these survivors who could still give a first-hand eyewitness account of the atrocities, forms an important knowledgebase for future generations as well as for the immediate campaign to get the Cham issue on the political agenda.

In 1994, the Albanian government declared the expulsion and killings during World War II of the Cham a genocide against the Cham-Albanian people. A memorial was subsequently erected. Each year on the 27th of June this event is commemorated. The INEX delegation was able to visit the memorial in Konispol, Albania. The delegation also visited Northern Greece to see the various historical buildings and houses of the Cham people who were driven out during World War II.

During this fact finding mission, the INEX delegation was able to compile a dossier and set up a network for its international advocacy campaign.

A report of the mission will be available soon as well as transcripts and videos of the interviews.

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