Lord Alderdice, British Liberal Democrat peer (formerly Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and before that Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party Leader) has been elected President of Liberal International, the world-wide organization of more than 80 Liberal political parties, at their Congress this past weekend in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The weekend Congress was hosted by Bulgarian Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg (Leader, National Movement of Simeon II) and Ahmed Dogan (Leader, Movement for Rights and Freedoms) and saw parties from Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America meet for three days of political debate and activity.
Lord Alderdice who has been Deputy President of LI for some time was clearly enthusiastic about his new role and in his Presidential speech he picked up the Congress theme of ‘Freedom and Security’ using not only his background of dealing with conflict and terrorist violence in Northern Ireland, but also his increasing experience of the problems in other parts of the world. He also spoke of his concerns about the failure of the Non-Proliferation Treaty process to curb the recent growth of nuclear weapons activity and the need to address the culture of political corruption if developing nations are to see real progress in poverty reduction in the new century. He encouraged Liberals to build on their recent expansion in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but also committed the federation to addressing the need for a growth of liberal democracy in the Middle East.
The Congress also saw other members appointed to the LI Bureau including Dr Wolfgang Gerhardt, Parliamentary Leader of the German Liberals, Matyas Eorsi, Leader of the Liberals in the Council of Europe, Hans van Baalen, Shadow Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the Dutch Parliament, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, Didier Reynders, Andorran Foreign Minister, Juli Minoves Triquell, and Taiwanese MP, Ms Bi-Khim Hsiao.