Before becoming a Member of the European Parliament, Johannes Cornelis van Baalen was a member of the Dutch national Parliament. He was eventually asked to lead the list for the European Parliament, and he accepted due to his international and European mind-set. “We have a Europe that works for the member states, it is not the member states working for Europe” he says.
In the upcoming European elections, which issues do you think will be central for the European population?
People think in these times of financial crisis “do I keep my job”, and if I don’t have a job, can I get one? I have economic priorities for the EU and I will fight the election on the issues of jobs.
What are some of your political groups answer to this issue and to fight unemployment on a European level?
First of all to complete the internal market, and to strengthen the market on services. To provide services should be made easier. And it is important to maintain and strengthen the euro, by having tighter control over legislative conditions, so inflation, national debt, and so on. We should also have more free trade agreements, for example with the United States and with ASEAN. It is important for me that the union is stronger on the economic level and stronger on maintaining the conditions for the Euro.
What do you think is the role of SMEs in the European economy?
Well SMEs are the job providers, not only in the European Union but wherever, in Turkey, in China. Small and medium size business provide jobs and therefore to support SMEs is vital. We should have less regulation, entrepreneurs should be able to do their work without too much hassle, without all this red tape. Also that they get easier access to money. The banks do not lend much anymore.
And regarding the role of migrant entrepreneurs, and in this case if we speak about Turkish Migrants, they the country in which they live, the Netherlands, or France or Belgium, and they know the market in Turkey. And maybe also other countries because we have Turkish migrants in all countries of the European Union. They provide a good network for doing business in the Union and with Turkey.
What do you think of the current state of EU-Turkey relations?
It is about membership of a political Union and that takes time. If you look at Spain or Portugal it took 15 years more or less. I consider it normal that there are stumble blocks. I think that Turkey and the European Union have joint interests, but we should be strict. I see a problem of freedom of the media in Turkey and civil liberties have to be strengthened. Not for me, but for the people living in Turkey and for Turkey becoming close to Europe. And I think there should be an arrangement concerning Cyprus. An accession of Turkey to the EU should happen if they are ready, not before. I say let’s work hard, it will take time, but Iet’s take the time.
Euro-scepticism, and anti-immigration in Europe is rising, how do you perceive this? Is it a threat to democratic politics in the European Union?
No I don’t think so. You have to see that a lot of voters see problems and they think that the easiest solutions is the populist vote. The established political parties, liberals, social democrats, European Peoples Party, should address the problems of the people and then there is no need to vote populist. They don’t offer solutions. I say if you want to get unemployed, the best thing is to vote for a party that want to get out of the European Union, because if you are not in the EU and the single market, the economy will not grow, it will shrink. But I don’t want to pay much attention to them. I don’t take them that seriously. I want to pay attention to the problems citizens have and therefore jobs jobs jobs.
In general, how do you think that the European Union can increase the public’s understanding of the positive contributions of immigration and diversity in the EU, and the economic benefits of migrants to the European Union?
The most important thing is to fight discrimination. And we should not be politically correct. Immigration has advantages and problems. If you look in my country, the Netherlands, in parts of the big cities, a majority of migrant people don’t speak Dutch. That is a very bad thing. If you come to the Netherlands and you want to work, you should speak Dutch. If I would immigrate to Turkey and I would not speak Turkish, I would have a problem being active in society. People should really integrate, but I am a liberal so I don’t discriminate. I see people as equal.
Speaking about integration, what tools would you suggest for involving and activating migrants in European societies?
Well that’s work. As we talk about SMEs, the best integration is on the workplace. We have to provide jobs for young people, native or not, and accelerate the economy. That can be done by what I said: Completing the internal market, having foreign trade agreements and making is easier to do business.
What role do you think organisations like UNITEE can play in changing attitudes, or as you say creating jobs?
People from UNITEE can do a lot. Creating jobs, addressing problems and fighting discrimination. For the entrepreneurs, the members of UNITEE, to be an active part of society, creating jobs, addressing problems, being citizens: that is what it is all about.