Ines Arrimadas It has managed to bring to Madrid, in the middle of July, the European liberal leaders. Forty degrees, although in the shade, the president of Ciudadanos celebrated: “The liberals are in this convention, and not in that of a conservative party.” Dacian Sciolos, President of Renew Europe – the group in the European Parliament – and Alexander-Graff Lambsdorff -German liberal leader- shared a table with the Jerez woman and Luis Garicano.

The session, halfway between English and Spanish, had something of coaching, since all the represented liberal groups – Austria, Romania, Hungary and Germany – went through a moment of delicate weakness, just like the one that Ciudadanos is going through now.

Arrimadas herself, in a relaxed tone, joked about that electoral disease that has been punishing liberals since they were born. Dacian Sciolos, also former Prime Minister of Romania, was in charge, as the leader of the European Liberals, to grant Ciudadanos the exclusive card of liberalism in Spain.

When he said that of “liberalism in Spain is called Ciudadanos”, the audience gave him a great ovation. Arrimadas was aware that she was giving nature a letter to what she had been claiming for months: “The PP is a conservative party.”

Although it was not directly addressed in that talk, the autonomy of the Ciudadanos project planned over the entire convention. Out of the tent, meanwhile, Edmundo bal He told the media: “There will be no merger with the PP. There will not be ”.

Sciolos met Arrimadas in Brussels a few months ago, already when Ciudadanos was facing its most pronounced crisis since it was born as a political party. “I am happy to be by your side. It means a lot to Renew Europe, the liberal and center group in the European Parliament ”.

In the Arrimadas-Sciolos relationship, the role of Luis Garicano, in turn leader of the Citizens in Europe delegation, has been fundamental. The economist, highly respected in the Brussels institutions, maintains high-level diplomatic relations. In view is the moderation of the aforementioned table, where he guided the colloquium where Sciolos and Lambsdorff participated.

Sciolos explained to Ciudadanos the need to nurture liberalism with a complex and worked discourse: “Because the left caricatures it and the right limits its meaning. Only in this way can moderation be defended against extremes and freedom from prohibition ”.

The definition of liberalism that Sciolos gave goes through “wanting equality in all areas”, “regardless of sexual preferences, race or religion”; also for “investing public money in solving the problems of citizens”; and “for rewarding the best based on their merits, and not on their ideology.”

Sciolos’ conference, very broad, moved the leaders of Ciudadanos, who eagerly took notes. Arrimadas has decided to entrust “liberalism” with his last bullet. That will be the concept that is hoisted, and not that of the “center”, which in Spain has become “a subterfuge for almost everything”.

In other words: the challenge for Arrimadas is to create in this country a liberal space broad and stable enough to “condition the national, regional and municipal governments.”

“We cannot be a large majority, but we can guarantee the balance of the countries. Because conservatives listen to the tunes of the radical right; and the Social Democrats, those of the left-wing populists. Only we make sure that one and the other tend to the center ”, said Sciolos.

The president of Renew Europe also landed his speech in the Spanish Parliament: “Liberals can protect the PSOE from Podemos; and to the PP, from Vox. We need Citizens to make Spain and Europe a better place. His team is exceptional ”.

The “spirit of optimism”

It was Sciolos who spoke of the convention as “a new beginning.” Later, Garicano gave the floor to Lambsdorff, who was able to dissect the fall and rise of the German liberals.

In a situation with certain parallels, the German liberals fell into irrelevance. They eventually disappeared from the Bundestag, but after four years they were resurrected and became a decisive force in shaping governments.

Lambsdorff called for calm and specified that Spain, like Germany, “needs a liberal party”: “It is important to equip yourself with spirit of optimism. The way is long”.

For this journey, this politician advised Arrimadas to build a true liberal discourse that exhibits his own convictions; and that it does not limit itself to defining itself in opposition to the adversaries.

And what is one of the keys to the recipe? “We do not work with populists. Never. Never! They want to destroy democracy, that’s why we don’t negotiate with them ”. The militancy applauded this point, but then Edmundo Bal found himself with this question at a press conference: “Will you negotiate governments with Vox?” The orange deputy secretary denied the major and said that, so far, the pacts had been signed only by the PP.

He also intervened, although telematically, Katalin Cseh, Canadian-born Hungarian liberal, fashionable parliamentarian in Strasbourg. His movement, called Momentu, ran for office in 2018, but did not win any seats. A year and a half later, he won two MEPs. It grows in opposition to the illiberal theses of Orban.

Arrimadas thanked those present “the strength of the liberal family”: “When you are not in a good time, you need to be told that you can move forward. In the cases that we have heard, the grassroots did not lose faith in the project ”.

“Defending this space is very difficult. We all share, here and in Europe, the challenges of the fight against populism and nationalism. What happens to us is what happens to any liberal party in Europe ”, concluded the president of Ciudadanos.


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