At its party conference in Dublin last week, the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) changed its name to the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party), so bringing the European party identity in line with the liberal group in the European Parliament, which is already known as ALDE.
The move was primarily a branding exercise ahead of elections to the European Parliament in June 2014. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, said: “It makes sense for the ALDE group in the European Parliament to be reflected in an ALDE Party, uniting the EU's centrist forces under one umbrella.”
If only it were that simple. There are 11 MEPs who are members of the ALDE group in the Parliament and who are either independent (such as Austrian Angelika Werthmann, who got thrown out of her party) or members of a party that is not affiliated with the ALDE Party (as is the case with five members of the centrist Mouvement Démocrate from France).
What Verhofstadt would like is to be able to harness the resources of all the national parties in what is now the ALDE Party to promote his ALDE group. In particular he needs better support from French and Italian liberals.
The Europe-wide parties are intending to field candidates for the post of president of the European Commission as part of their manifestoes in the 2014 elections to the Parliament. Verhofstadt is doubtless hoping to be chosen as the liberals' candidate for Commission president at ALDE's next conference, in Pula, Croatia, in May.