Beaten by Dutchman Hans van Baalen at election for chairman of ALDE, the union of European liberals, Siim Kallas says sticking with current policy was preferred.
-Siim Kallas, now after the election results have been declared: how strong was your faith in winning during run-up to the congress?
Earlier elections have shown the result may be very unexpected. I would not have run had I not deemed it possible to win.
-We are hearing of preliminary agreements. How much did you know about these?
Sure there were preliminary agreements. These had all been made by the time I entered the election campaign. The idea was that perhaps somebody could be re-convinced. Liberals are the kind of people who are great personalities, who vote after gut feeling and not too strictly following the party discipline.
Me, my loyal assistants and my colleagues talked to many people and drew out the picture that principally it was possible to win though from May agreements had been made. My opponents had over 30 delegates to out six i.e. they had a large majority and their agreements held. Basically, this is no bad outcome at all. There were small delegations which solidly voted for me. But there had to have been those in the larger delegations as well who did so. Otherwise, the numbers would not have added up.
That was the way we imagined it, that we might win but maybe we’d lose. Personally, I am so satisfied that I went for it. I would have deeply regretted had I not tried. The campaign we had with a very small bunch of people and the other kind of experience, it also gave a lot. I did it all in a very good mood and with great enthusiasm.
-How do agreements fit with the liberal world view which stands for freedom?
That indeed was the imagination from the former elections that very many people vote after their imagination and not after group discipline. Perhaps the many who did not support me also voted after their gut feeling.
It must be considered that the liberal movement consists of greatly varying parties. It needs not be that my type of vision is the most loved and popular.
-Were the Nordics on your side as was to be hoped?
Yes. The Swedes and the Finns were firmly behind us.
-Why did the liberals favour Mr van Baalen as president?
The president of ALDE is picked by a company which are in constant communication. For years, it is the same company. Among them, Mr van Baalen is very well known, but I was not. They favoured what they knew, and not to risk.
Hans van Baalen is a nice man and basically there is no tragedy, but with me it would have been otherwise. Now he is in charge and I guess things will go on the way it has been.
-Which course will ALDE take or do they alter the course at all?
It will definitely not be altered. Towards the end, that came out very plain. Hans van Baalen was of the clear-cut opinion that politics are made in the governments and parliamentary group, and not in ALDE – which for me feels like nonsense if it is called a party. A party is created to do politics. I would have very clearly brought that out.
Perhaps they feared there’d emerge a certain rivalry and confusion, for which I see no reason. At the end of the day, I have been working with parliaments my whole life, and with things build on agreements.
Now it will remain so that ALDE will be advising the member parties, and seeking for new members, but on European level there will be no change of policy.
-Does that mean they are satisfied that ALDE is not currently among major powers in Europe, as are Soc Dems and Conservatives?
Depends on the way we look. We currently have seven prime ministers – haven’t had as many earlier. But there is no ALDE-movement as a whole. There are the views of the prime ministers, which vary in rather many issues.
I imagine they need to be united. Thanks to my excellent campaign I was able to present a very clear alternative.
-What will you do now?
Life is beautiful. On Tuesday, I’m teaching at the university, there’s all kinds of presentations. No other plans actually. The Tuesday after that, I have an expert group in Brussels which I lead. Lots of activity that.
-Do you have the ambition to become Estonia’s next President?
Estonian presidential elections differ from these elections. While here there was a deadline to set up one’s candidacy, in Estonian presidential elections there is no such thing. This talk makes no sense before the presidential elections become a reality. Then we’ll see and then we’ll have the time to decide.
- Third largest alliance in European Parliament.
- From Estonia, represented by Reform and Centre.
- ALDE presidents are elected every two years.
- Hans van Baalen was voted into chairmanship with 296 votes against 117 for Siim Kallas.