“The Russian embargo shows the need of a new EU trade policy” – Interview with Dita Charanzova, ALDE

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Dita Charanzova is a Czech MEP for the ALDE group. She has recently been elected for the first time to the European Parliament and she sits in the Committees on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and on International Trade.

All her career has unfolded inside the European institutions, participating in the preparation of the accession of the Czech Republic to the EU. During the Czech EU Presidency, Mrs Charanzová chaired the Trade Policy Committee in the Council and was leading a team on trade and development policy at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic. Prior to being elected, she was also working as a manager of a TV studio at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

As a first-time MEP, what motivated you to enter politics and run as a candidate for the European Parliament?

In the Czech Republic there is a new political movement, ANO 2011 (Action of Dissatisfied Citizens), which is completely different from other political parties. It has been founded with the basic idea that we have to change how the country is run and how public money is being spent. It has attracted a lot of experts and successful people in different fields who had become interested in politics. I am very pleased to contribute to this movement in the field I know best, the EU.

You have been elected to the European Parliament in a turbulent period, when clear actions are required. In this respect, what are your expectations for the next five years?

I have several objectives, but to be honest one is especially relevant: to help the Czech people better understand the EU. Due to the “public deficit” and unfortunately due to our previous politicians, my country has become rather Eurosceptic.

This is now our duty to explain what the EU is about and try to deliver concrete examples to our citizens. Since I have already worked here in Brussels, I know the environment very well, and I am confident that there are particular issues we can explain better to them.

Before becoming an MEP, you have worked extensively in the European institutions, both at the national and the EU level. What is your assessment of the situation of the EU? What should change?

First of all, we have to make sure what exactly we decide at the European level – sometimes it is not the most efficient way to deal with all problems at this level. Some issues should be solved at the national level.

On the other hand, there are still some areas where we need to take a decision at the EU level for example in order to have a fully functioning internal market. So, it is necessary to find the right balance between what is really needed and what is not.

As a Member of Trade Committee, one of the main topics of discussion is the EU’s sanctions on Russia and their negative and lasting effect on EU businesses. How can the EU help them?

If we look at agriculture, there are for example some European funds available for the farmers and companies in crisis due to the Russian embargo as a reaction to the EU sanctions. But they will never be enough.

From my perspective, as someone who has been working on trade issues, it is the time to reflect on what we can do for businesses in other non-European markets. We must have a plan B for our exporters; we should see what from our exports to Russia can be shifted to other markets. I hope the incoming Trade Commissioner will come up with a strategy for a new trade policy.

The new High Representative for the EU’s foreign policy, Italian Federica Mogherini, has been heavily criticised for her supposed “friendship with Putin”. According to you, how should the new European Commission act towards Russia?

It is a very tricky and sensitive issue. We have to take everything into account and we cannot leave Russia in a vacuum: it is a complex geopolitical issue.

To my mind, it is time to reassess our overall relationship with Russia; it is an important trade partner, not the biggest one, but definitely one of the most important ones. At the same time, we must see how our political relations evolve and, to me, it is something highly unpredictable. But the main struggle will be in the EU: finding a balance that reflects the political will and the political attitude of the different countries and doing it quickly enough.

The TTIP, the trade agreement between the EU and the US which is currently being negotiated, has received both a lot of criticism and a lot of praise, depending on the individual perspectives. What is your take on that?

As I said before, everything is interconnected. For me, the TTIP negotiations are not only about trade; they also implicate a geopolitical position, taking into account the current situation in Russia. From the mere point of view of trade, if we manage to agree with the US on standards, then our other trading partners will follow in the future. This will be the major benefit.

Nevertheless, we have to reach a comprehensive agreement. I will not settle for an agreement which is not and does not involve all issues that are important to business, such as regulatory issues and standards. There are of course red lines on the EU side, which are mainly in the consumers’ area. I hope the Commission will keep its word and that these red lines will not be put into negotiations.

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