ILS Takes 'Freedom Philosophy' to Brussels
By Eric Jansson
Special Report on the International Leaders Summit
The Fourth Annual International Leaders Summit (ILS), held in Brussels on October 10-11, 2007, showcased views and personalities from the leading edge of the struggle for political and economic freedom in Europe, the United States and beyond.
Co-hosted by Roger Helmer and Syed Kamall, British Conservative members of the European Parliament, the ILS event offered brainstorming and networking opportunities for individuals and institutions who share the aim of advancing the cause of liberty.
At the heart of discussion and debate were the evolving aims of a newly reunited Europe, in the continent's dual capacity as a patchwork of sovereign nations and an institutional union, the EU. What will be the future of transatlantic relations? What can we do to further advance the cause of liberty in Europe, amid the socio-political flux that accelerated with the collapse of Communism 18 years ago and continues today?
Speakers and participants noted an array of opportunities and challenges in areas such as tax reform, constitutional reform, industrial policy and political advocacy.
Joined by a chorus of fellow British MEPs, Roger Helmer made a strong case for discarding EU regulations that curb the powers of sovereign nations and their citizens. Adding depth and dimension to the argument were Victoria Curzon Price of the University of Geneva, Peter Jungen of the European Enterprise Institute (EEI), Bridgett Wagner of The Heritage Foundation, Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner, British MEP Nirj Deva and others.
Their messages resonated clearly with speakers and participants from new EU member states of central and eastern Europe, as well as candidate states, which face particular challenges in a shared European context.
On the security front, The Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes along with British MEP Geoffrey Van Orden outlined challenges in the Middle East, Europe's home-grown terrorism, and emerging threats to liberty and prosperity. Panelists affirmed the need to strengthen and expand the coalition against global terrorism. Concerns were also expressed about the trajectory of Russia, both internally and as a westward projector of renewed power.
In the fray were Mart Laar, the Estonian MP and former prime minister, Jerzy Samborski of EEI, Girts Valdis Kristovskis, a Latvian MEP and former defence minister, Croatian prime ministerial candidate Ljubo Jurcic, the eminent Slovenian economist Ljubo Sirc, Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam, Slovenian MEP Romana Jordan-Cizelj and a host of others.
Major contributions came also from Joel Anand Samy and Natasha Srdoc, co-founders of the ILS and the Adriatic Institute for Public Policy, a free market think tank in Croatia.
Speakers from the US and New Zealand also made essential contributions, as leading lights from the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and American for Tax Reform (ATR) were joined by Maurice McTigue, a former New Zealand government minister distinguished by his outstanding achievements as a free market reformer.
Cato Institute's Daniel Mitchell along with ATR's Grover Norquist clearly articulated the case for tax competition rather than Brussels' emerging sentiment of tax harmonisation.
The overarching message, as urged by proven reformers such as Mr Laar and Mr McTigue and advocated by policymakers and analysts from the US and Europe, was that free market reforms are not merely possible. They are essential in an age when, although Communism is vanquished institutionally, the Marxist instincts and coercive powers of "big government" remain immense.
Two documentary films screened at the event provided extra inspiration on this point. "The Singing Revolution", directed by Jim and Maureen Tusty, recounted the Estonian struggle for independence and freedom from Soviet rule. "Freedom from Despair", directed by Brenda Brkusic, chronicled the lives of Croatian citizens who fled and fought Communist tyranny through the late 20th Century.
Eric Jansson is a freelance journalist and contributing editor for Balkan Insight, BIRN's online publication. Jansson served for nine years as a journalist in eastern Europe for the Financial Times, dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur and other news organisations
Geoffrey Van Orden, MEP, UK and Conservative Spokesman on Defense and Security delivers his message (seated on the far left) at the ILS Strategic Session on Security moderated by Dr. Tom Palmer, The Cato Institute, seated to the right of MEP Van Orden. Seated from the right are Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia and Peter Brookes of The Heritage Foundation.