Hans van Baalen, President of the ALDE Party, MEP:
Macron is victory for open, liberal-oriented France
Populism is successfully being countered by different kinds of liberal forces
Maria Koleva, Brussels
19 May, 2017
Close-up: Hans van Baalen was elected President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) on 21 November 2015 at the Party Congress in Budapest, Hungary. Since 2009 Hans van Baalen is a Member of the European Parliament for VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), ALDE Group. In the current mandate he is chair of the Delegation for relations with South Africa and member of the Conference of Delegation Chairs, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence. Between 2009 and 2014 he was President of Liberal International. Before, he was a Member of the House of Representatives in the Netherlands from 1999 to 2002 and from 2003 to 2009. Van Baalen has been a member of the VVD since 1986. He was international secretary for the VVD party bureau from 1993 to 1998 and was MP from 1999 until 2002.
- Mr van Baalen, what are your first reactions about the outcome of the French presidential elections and how can we interpret the fact that the two major parties in France were cast out right off in the first round?
- The victory of Emmanuel Macron means a victory for an open, liberal and international oriented France. As someone who stands close to the liberal ALDE family, Macron could further strengthen the importance of the seven liberal Prime Ministers and five liberal European Commissioners.
The traditional political parties in France (Parti Socialiste and the Republicans) are out of touch with the French population and therefore lost in the first round. I didn’t expect that Marine Le Pen will be elected to be the next French President. Even getting some 34% of the votes, as candidate of the far right Front National she was unelectable.
- How can the European Parliament ensure that the Brexit negotiations do not turn into an obnoxious quarrel and how do you see the future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom?
- First things first. Neither the European Union nor the United Kingdom has anything to gain from a bloody divorce. Therefore, we first have to conclude the terms for a constructive separation between the UK and the EU, including the position of the EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa. After this, we need to reshape the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom and start negotiations for a free trade agreement that will be beneficial for both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Moreover, a week is a long time in politics, as former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson once stated. The Brexit negotiations will take at least two years and the elections in the UK are scheduled for 8 June, which could change the political landscape and sideline the hard-core Brexiteers in the Conservative Party. This could improve the circumstances under which the negotiations between the UK and the EU are being conducted.
- For tackling one of the biggest challenges the EU is facing - the migration crisis, obviously a European solution is needed, but do you think the mandatory quotas scheme that shows less than moderate results, can really be part of the solution?
- We need to assist countries in the region, like Egypt, Jordan and Libya, to help and shelter refugees, as this would enable refugees to return home once the situation has improved. In this regard, the Turkey deal has proven to be successful as the influx of refugees to the European Union was significantly reduced. Therefore, we need to conclude this kind of deals with other strategic countries near the EU. The European Union Member States should coordinate their efforts for the receipt of limited numbers of political refugees, who are facing prosecution back home and could therefore not return in the short run.
- Terrorist threats are also permanent issues nowadays in Europe. In view of the atrocious incidents in London and Stockholm, and in many other places across the continent, how can Europe strengthen its forces to effectively counter this menace and protect its ordinary citizens?
- First and foremost, we need to know who is entering the European Union. Therefore, strengthening the European border and coast guard and reinforcing security checks at the external borders of the European Union, is vital. Intelligence services should closely collaborate and need to share information.
- The Eurosceptic movements are now on the rise in Europe. In your opinion, why can’t the massages that the EU is transmitting reach all citizens?
- Despite all predictions, in the Netherlands the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) remains the biggest party by a large margin and the PVV (Party for Freedom) of Geert Wilders won some seats, but lost the elections. In Austria, the left wing candidate Alexander van der Bellen defeated the extreme right candidate Norbert Hofer in the Presidential elections. In France, Emmanuel Macron gained a huge victory at the Presidential elections with 65.8 %. Therefore, I believe that all over Europe populism is successfully being countered by different kinds of liberal forces.
- Does Europe’s plan to strengthen its military capacity, question to some extent the future of NATO and do you think that this organisation needs to be modernised?
- Considering the threat from Putin’s Russia, Islamic State and other terrorist groups, we need to increase our defence spending and all NATO member states should aim to invest 2% of GDP in defence (NATO benchmark). This means a reinforcement of the European pillar within NATO, as NATO remains the cornerstone of European security and defence.