Freedom and democracy are very important values and must be present in the political debate. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organised a meeting in Madrid to discuss this issue with experts and to present the "Free 3 Network", which aims to promote political dialogue between southern and northern Europe in favour of the promotion of freedom and democratic principles.
David Henneberger, Director of the Madrid office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, led the launch event with the participation of Paulo Neves, President of the Institute for the Promotion in Latin America and the Caribbean of Portugal (IPDAL), Eva Cammerino, Italian politician and co-founder and director of Prime Minister, Konstatin Kuhle, Vice-President of the Liberal Group in the German Bundestag, and Roxana Nicula, President of the Foundation for the Advancement of Freedom (FUNDALIB).
The "Free 3 Network" has "Para mais libertá" as its main slogan. As David Henneberger explained, the aim was to choose a message that unites the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian languages to highlight the core value of freedom. The aim is to "join the forces of Italy, Spain and Portugal" to promote freedom, democracy and dialogue between the south of Europe, represented mainly by these three countries, and the north, with Germany as one of the main exponents, within the framework of the European Union (EU), in order to communicate to the north all the positive things that the south has.
The director of the Madrid office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation alluded to relevant issues that the new network will address in its working sessions, such as the issue of the reform of the energy markets, which has important consequences for the private consumer, for companies and for the conservation of the environment, or the improvement of conditions for private companies and start-ups, so that they have better opportunities. All of this within the framework of liberalism: "What unites us is that we are liberals", explained David Henneberger.
The Foundation's representative stressed that in the next European elections in 2024 "we must show that southern Europe has great potential". Henneberger also stressed that there are very positive aspects in southern Europe, such as high-level private companies. He gave the example of Spanish banking and industry in northern Italy, which are even better positioned than German institutions in these areas. "The aim is to pass on the positive things from the south to the north," he added.
Konstantin Kuhle spoke of the project combining the liberal initiatives of Italy, Spain and Portugal. The German MEP explained that there is great interest from the German liberal pole as there are common challenges and issues between the four countries, especially the response to the current war that we have again on the European continent, alluding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Kuhle said that dependence on autocratic regimes was very dangerous, especially for Germany with issues such as energy dependence on Russia. He also indicated that all four economies have been affected by the pandemic and highlighted the economic crisis caused by COVID. "All states have spent a lot of resources to cope with the crisis, cities have reopened, but economic growth is fragile," said Konstantin Kuhle, who alluded to proposals for economic reforms to overcome the crisis as a key topic for discussion in this network.
The issue of migration also featured in the debate. "Migration is very important and our responsibility as Liberals is to manage this issue so that we have more regular migration and less irregular migration," said Konstatin Kuhle, who called for cooperation with African and Asian states in this regard. "Immigration is a challenge and an opportunity for development and not a problem", said Roxana Nicula.
The German MEP pointed out that Spain will take over the presidency of the Council of Europe and that this is an opportunity to adopt reforms in various areas before the European elections in June. "If we want to achieve something as countries in the EU, we need this Spanish presidency because it is the penultimate opportunity before the European elections," he said. Konstantin Kuhle pointed out that "the EU has been a successful project, but it has not felt that way for all generations in Europe", and he hoped that "the new network will feel that this is its own project" and will help in this sense.
Roxana Nicula said that restoring confidence in the European project was one of the responsibilities of European liberals. Free movement and free trade "is what unites all liberals", she said. "The principles of classical liberalism put us in a perfect position to be an interlocutor with any sector," said Roxana Nicula. "Personal and economic freedom is what drives us towards greater prosperity".
The president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Freedom explained the importance of individual responsibility and institutions in the democratic and participatory process. "The institutions we have are a mirror of the society we have and liberals want societies with individual responsibility to demand transparency, accountability and a sense of duty from political representatives," she said.
Roxana Nicula highlighted competitiveness as a positive value that discards models that do not work and adopts models that work. She also pointed out that there is a problem of ageing in European society and that it is necessary to defend coexistence, with respect for the personal projects of citizens and without going backwards in the field of individual freedoms.
Italian politician Eva Cammerino said there was optimism that this "Para mais libertá" initiative would strengthen diplomatic ties. Cammerino also called for the participation of young people in institutions. "We need to let young people know how important politics is. We need a change in the system with the participation of older people and young people," she said. "I look forward to the next European elections and I hope that this network will work to make the elections valuable and that Europe will be an empathetic project", said the Italian politician, who said that she "expects a great democratic development with the participation of young people and also women".
Meanwhile, Paulo Neves indicated that it is a pleasure to work with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which brings together in this proposal three countries that are important for the European and global project. "Bringing together the three southern countries is a very timely initiative because the European Union, due to the war in Ukraine, is very oriented towards the east and we need to change a little and turn towards the southern countries", because these are the borders of Europe, across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
"Most Europeans are liberals because they want freedom. The basis must be freedom, democracy and multipartyism", Neves pointed out as one of the clearest principles of the liberal initiative in this line, defending freedom and democracy. "I love freedom and democracy," said the president of Portugal's Institute for Promotion in Latin America and the Caribbean. "A network to work together is important. The world's problems are enormous and need enormous solutions, but they are also common problems and need common solutions", explained Neves himself in relation to the "Free 3 Network".