MEP Hans van Baalen (VVD), a Dutch member of the European Parliament, was elected the new President of the ALDE Party at the ALDE Party Congress in Budapest on Saturday (21 November), triumphing over former Estonian Commissioner Siim Kallas.
Van Baalen (also known as Johannes Cornelis van Baalen) succeeds Sir Graham Watson, a British liberal, who was ALDE’s first chief, leading it since 2011.
Van Baalen was a Member of the House of Representatives in the Netherlands from 1999 to 2002, and from 2003 to 2009. He was also the President of Liberal International between 2009 and 2014. In the European Parliament, he chairs the delegation for relations with South Africa, and sits on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and in the subcommittee on Security and Defence.
Van Baalen obtained 296 votes at the congress and Kallas 117, with 7 abstentions.
The ALDE congress also elected Vice-Presidents. In alphabetical order, those are: Timmy Dooley TD (Fianna Fail, Ireland), Fredrick Federley MEP (Center Party, Sweden), Ilhan Kyuchyuk (MRF, Bulgaria), Markus Löning (FDP, Germany), Marta Pascal MP (CDC, Catalonia, Spain) and Ros Scott (Liberal Democrats, United Kingdom).
The congress was held in Budapest, with the intention of delivering critical messages to Victor Orbán, and his increasingly authoritarian tendencies.
The delegates adopted a number of resolutions, including a statement in the light of the attacks in Paris.
“The rehabilitation of Schengen must be secured by upgrading Frontex, as it is crucial to preserve and protect Europe’s external borders, citizens‘ sense of security and furthermore to safeguard one of the most ever visible and tangible integrational tools in the EU Project,” the delegates stated.
They also called for Europol and Eurojust to acquire new competences, and appealed for the establishment of a European Intelligence Agency, with the mission and capability to implement a transversal intelligence network within member states.
The idea to establish a European intelligence service seems to be a non-starter for the European liberals. Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, articulated this idea at length during a recent public debate.
Delegates also appealed for establishing a common roadmap to lead Europe towards “a real European Defence Union”.