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The SDP recently sent Young Democrats President Charles Tan for the internship programme organised by the Alliance of Liberal Democrats of Europe (ALDE). The internship lasts for 5 weeks. The programme is open on a rotational basis to member parties of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) of which the SDP is one. The next opportunity for a Young Democrat to be posted to Brussels will be mid 2006. Below is Mr Tan’s report.
I was assigned to the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs during my internship. The flexibility of the program however, allowed me to follow other committees as well. I attended ALDE Group meetings, press conferences, public hearings and plenary session in Strasbourg. The issues raised on these meetings vary widely from human rights concerns including the discrimination that ethnic minority the Romas in Europe are subjected to, torture and imprisonment of activists in Syria to pan-EU subjects such as working time and controversy on the ascension of Bulgaria and Romania to the body.
April is an exciting month in the European Parliament. Besides the debates on the ascension of Bulgaria and Romania to EU, France and Netherlands were holding national referendums on the new EU constitution. The new EU constitution has however been a controversial issue within the parliament as it must be ratified by all 25 member states. Various political groups within the Parliament held different opinions on it.
During my stay, besides learning the rules and procedures of the Parliament and European politics, I took the opportunity to research on EU´s position on human rights, and agreements with other countries. I talked to my EU colleagues about the repressive political situation in Singapore.
I believe I gained a better albeit perhaps limited understanding of the workings of European Parliament, which in my opinion, is a democratic system involving checks, balances and lots of effort and work on the part of the committees consisting of Members of European Parliament, assistants and administrators. Excruciating debates undergoing various readings on reports gave rise to extreme attention to details.
Compromises are made at times. However, I believe this is an indication of the democratic making process in the Parliament which should be cherished. This is essential, given, the European Union is such a huge organization, and that such a process prevents it from degenerating into a bureaucratic white elephant.
Working with the ALDE as a stagiaire strengthened my belief as a liberal. This is the conviction that an individual should be afforded maximum freedom unless the action or views hurt others; the freedom and rights in any sphere whether political, economic or otherwise; of which comes along with personal responsibility. More importantly, liberals practise tolerance, a readiness to accept views or actions that one disagrees or disapproves, which is a fundamental principle in any liberal democracy.
You, too, could be a part of this exciting learning process and travel to other democratic countries to see how they organise their societies. Come, be a part of the SDP’s Young Democrats and be a leader for democracy!