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European Elections are National Elections as well

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By Hans van Baalen, leader of VVD in The European Parliament, member of the Bureau of the ALDE Group in the EP and President of Liberal International.

In May 2014, the citizens of 28 EU member states will elect the 754 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Many argue that these elections are exclusively European-wide elections and that national parties should be replaced by trans-European lists. As a former Member of the Second Chamber of Dutch Parliament for VVD, current leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) in the European Parliament (EP), and as elected front-runner for VVD in the coming European Elections, I know that a rift between European and national politics is bad for both. If the EP is solely elected through trans-European lists, its legitimacy will be further weakened.

As a VVD MEP, I have a strong position in Dutch politics which helps me to strengthen the VVD delegation in the EP in Brussels and Strasbourg. I have a standing invitation to attend the meetings of VVD Groups in both the Second Chamber (the House) and the First Chamber (the Senate) of Parliament. I am advisory member of the National Executive Committee of the party and I am member of the so-called Core Group which is composed of Prime Minister Marc Rutte, VVD leaders in the House Halbe Zijlstra and Loek Hermans in the Senate, VVD chief whip in the House Tamara Venrooy and party chairman Benk Korthals.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) and I work closely together regarding the agenda of both the European Council and the EP. With VVD (and PvdA) Ministers and State Secretaries, I do the same concerning the meetings of the Council of Ministers. I would not have this position if I were a trans-European MEP without a solid foundation in my national party. On the other hand, I can lobby for European compromises reached by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) of which VVD is a member. To cut these ties would be very counter-productive.

Furthermore, although I operate from the benches of ALDE in the EP, I see myself and I am seen by the Dutch public as their representative. I consider it part of my duties to accept invitations by late night shows such as Pauw & Witteman, The Wereld Draait Door, Knevel & Van den Brink, NOS News Hour as well as giving interviews in Dutch magazines and newspapers. For these reasons, I do not live in Brussels and Strasbourg but I commute between The Hague and both European seats of the EP, or I book hotels.

An extra dimension to both my European and my national work is given by the fact that I am President of Liberal International (LI). LI is the world federation of liberal and democratic parties, which includes the British LibDems and the German FDP. LI works in different capacities with more than 100 parties and organisations around the globe, including the US Democrats.

Leading VVD in the 2014 EP elections, together with my team, I will focus on a Europe which strikes a balance between European and Dutch national interests. This means a focus on the Common Market, International Trade, a stable European currency, energy self-sufficiency, the Digital Agenda and all other areas which contribute to a strong economy, growth and jobs. The Union should do what the member states cannot do, or cannot do as efficiently or as effectively as the Union. We do not believe in an “Ever Closer Union” but in a Union that makes the member states and its citizens stronger. This means taking clear position. No against EU bashing. No against EU federalism. No to Eurobonds.  Yes to growth! Yes to close co-operation! Yes to the UK in the EU!





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