1. Which person you have worked with has most inspired you in your career, and how?
One name that immediately springs to my mind is Alain Madelin. He is a French politician, who served several times as minister. He has also been an MEP and ran in the French presidential elections. Perhaps most importantly, he presided the French liberal, centre-right movement where I started in politics. He is a true liberal, a man of conviction and ideas and an intellectual powerhouse, from whom I learned a lot. There are very few politicians like him left in French politics today, something I deeply regret.
2. How would you describe your political style in three words and why?
I would say my style is frank, determined and dynamic. I have a reputation for being straightforward: when I have something to say, I say it without beating around the bush. Also, when I am defending a conviction, I hold on to it. In politics, it's important to have strong ideas that you can defend no matter what. However, you also have to be able to make compromises, and that doesn't work without putting some strength and energy into it. You have to show that you believe in it yourself.
3. Is there anything you have personally achieved or done that would surprise people?
Here is something many of my colleagues in Brussels probably don't know about me: for many years, I was President of a natural regional park in my home region. I was actually the very first woman in France to hold such a post. Perhaps because I am a woman, and because I am often perceived as more 'urban' in style, it came as a surprise to many that I could easily be elected in a very rural area, by rural mayors from small villages. During those years, I often worked on the ground, always carrying a pair of rubber boots in the trunk of my car.
4. What is the most humbling thing you have experienced in your career?
Meeting with spiritual leaders, men of God, has always been for me a very humbling experience. I once met the Dalaï-Lama, but also Pope John- Paul II and Benedict XVI. All have impressed me by their wisdom and depth of thoughts. When you work in politics and you have such a hectic agenda, you seldom have the chance to take a step back, and really reflect on spiritual matters. It is however helpful to remain grounded in strong values and beliefs.
5. What was the most inspirational and influential book you have read, and why?
I recently read a book by young French economist Nicolas Bouzou, which struck me through its accuracy and audacious style. In 'Le Grand Refoulement' (the Great Repression in English), Bouzou tries to culturally and historically explain the fear that many French people have of globalisation and technological progress and also proposes solutions. The book shows the way France has always been able, albeit belatedly, to transform itself and embrace modern changes to remain wealthy and competitive. Genuinely positive and liberal, this is a book I would warmly recommend to all candidates running for the French presidential elections next year.
Want more 5Qs? Check out our chat with Brando Benifei.