MEPs from across the political spectrum have shared their insights, often very personal, with the Parliament Magazine’s team on the key issues of the day.
From rule of law to gender equality, from diversity and inclusion to post-Brexit EU-UK relations, here’s a look back at some of our favourite conversations from the last 12 months.
Not content with working to improve gender equal representation, helping devise a European migration policy and tackling the growing threat to media freedom, just a few weeks ahead of her election as the EPP Group’s candidate for European Parliament President, Maltese deputy Roberta Metsola also gave us her outlook for the rest of the Parliament’s legislature.
“My basic guiding principle is that I believe in Europe. And this parliament will ensure that Europe comes back, that people re-capture that sense of promise that our project has”. She added that her hope was to ensure that the European Parliament was at the centre of “a pro-European vision,”, one that she said so many people have asked her to deliver. “We have two and a half years left to do that”.
In our first issue back after the summer break in September, the Chair of the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, Juan Fernando López Aguilar discussed a range top-line EU issues, including Migration, Rule of Law, the future of Europe and reshaping the Council.
With tension building up around the issue of Rule of Law issue in Hungary and Poland, López Aguilar argued that it was, “particularly alarming, and perhaps a sign of the level of deterioration in the European project, that certain EU Member States had distanced themselves from the European Court of Justice decisions.
He added, “The European Union is not an ethnic, linguistic or religious union, it is a union in law and that law is the democratically legitimised right of open societies. This seems especially serious to me”
The only woman with a visible disability among 705 MEPs, German Greens/EFA deputy, Katrin Langensiepen told us back in June that the fight for diversity, inclusion and dignity was an uphill struggle, but one that was worth waging. She said that people with disabilities had been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and had been largely forgotten by society after the Coronavirus outbreak in Europe began in March 2020.
When COVID hit, the media took the time to interview us and listen to us. But later on, persons with disabilities died in institutions because they were locked up, like in prison. It has been a tough time and it still is so tough - we are just not on the radar,” she explained.
Just days after the late-May interception and forced landing in Minsk of a Ryanair flight and the subsequent removal and arrest of dissident Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, the Chair of Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Security and Defence (SEDE), Nathalie Loiseau, warned of the threat of authoritarian regimes looking to weaken liberal democracies and take advantage of the EU’s weaknesses and divisions.
“Terrorism and hybrid threats know no boundaries and strike directly into our territories and our interests,” she explained.
Back in early summer, Pedro Silva Pereira told us that he had “mixed feelings” about the UK’s departure from the European Union. “On the one hand, I regret Brexit, but I also recognise that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is a positive step for our future relationship.
Rapporteur for the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee’s opinion on the TCA, lead deputy on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement as well as the S&D Group’s representative on the Brexit UK Coordination Group, Silva Pereira added, “Yes, we have concerns regarding the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, but I think that we’ve done the right thing, here in the European Parliament, in giving our consent to the TCA.”
In her decades-long career as a politician and vocal advocate for women’s rights, Irish EPP Group deputy Frances Fitzgerald said she had witnessed a shift in the fight for gender equality - from the inspiring Beijing Declaration 25 years ago to the shocking rollback in women’s rights in some EU Member States, particularly in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the current situation appears bleak, she said she was optimistic that real and lasting change is on its way.
She explained, “We have ‘unfinished democracies’ - democracies where women are not at the decision-making table, where women are still paid less than men and where women are still subject to desperate violence in their own homes. If we are to really move towards equality, we must address these challenges”.