Saturday 20 May 2006
Below, you can read a condensed report of the meeting.
General Meeting held on Saturday 20 May came as an opportunity for a large
number of members of the European Movement to discuss the way forward. The SGM was
initiated originally by the Sussex branch, which obtained more than 100 signatures calling
for it. The meeting was held in London, at Friends House near Euston. Attendance was even
better than expected, with 141 members from all over the UK present, and acknowledged as
the best attended general meeting in years.
A month or so earlier, Lord Haskins had resigned as Chairman and his deputy Marie-Louise Rossi was now acting Chairman. She explained that the difficulties of meeting the notice requirements of the Constitution with almost no administrative staff time meant that resolutions passed could not actually be binding on the Executive Committee. But they would be very persuasive if passed by such a substantial gathering of members.
Michael Barry had been asked to lead the discussion, and did so in a good-humoured and helpful way, seeking a spectrum of views while keeping to a brisk schedule. He welcomed members who had crowded into the room and introduced an agenda where the Agenda listing a sequence of consolidated resolutions.
The Movement still has unique strengths
The first resolution came from the Special General Meeting Steering Group, proposed by Oliver Hayward and seconded by Michael Rider:
The movement is needed as much as ever, but it is now operating in a new environment, with much greater competition for public attention and financial resources. It must therefore play to its unique strengths its network of branch activists and its website. It needs to be reformed so that these are able to function as effectively as possible.
This motion was aimed as a general statement of the current situation, allowing a wide-ranging discussion of the way forward in a new situation. Oliver said that branches had been neglected for the past several years but now had a vital role to play. The proposed task force was needed to judge the best way forward, reflecting members wishes and practical opportunities. Some branches may have languished, but many were significantly active. Alongside branches we needed to recognise the national and international roles of the movement. We would need funds and use our human resources to establish an ongoing programme, both short and long term.
The value of branches was stressed by many speakers supporting the resolution. Several firmly claimed that already a lot was being done without help from the centre. Yet a central unit could valuably support with materials and exchange of ideas. In particular there was general assent that a national website has been a valuable asset, re-establishing brand image obscured by several years entangled with Britain in Europe.
Members from Hull, Ipswich and Bournemouth, for example, pointed out that there were no branches near them. They needed co-ordinated administration and support. A figure of over 200 was mentioned for members unable to belong to a local branch. There were also branches where active members had jobs to hold down and little extra time to spare.
Young European Movement
The need for a task force on strategy
|The next motion to be discussed, again
originating from the Steering Group, had been generated by the conviction that a
fundamental restructuring was essential, simplifying the hierarchy of committees and
placing the key decision-making role with a Branches Council. Alan Wasdell (Surrey), who
had put this motion, acknowledged that once a decision had been made to proceed with a
Strategy Task Force, the arguments in favour of focussing on the branches should be
commended to it.
Michael Barry said a number of people had been asked and agreed to serve on such a Task Force, aiming to represent a variety of experience and geographical areas. They were,
There was now an open invitation, Michael Barry said, to members who would like to be included in the Reference Group.
Funds and fund-raising
Activity and communications