Ruza Tomasic, Croatian MEP since her country entered the European Union in July 2013 and Member of the Bureau of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, talks to UNITEE about the importance of entrepreneurship and the particular challenges Croatia is facing as the newest EU Member State. She is also a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
Could you first tell me, why did you become an MEP and what are your motivations to go into European politics?
Both answers are the same. Croatia joined the European Union and then I thought that the best way to protect Croatian national interests is to be a Member of the European Parliament. So I ran for elections, I passed them and here I am.
Croatia entered the European Union last July. How has this accession been beneficial for your country?
So far, the main benefit I can think of is peace. Croatia had a bloody war in the nineties, and now we have peace guaranteed. But we are not getting money from EU funds yet, it is going to take a while. We get 11.8 billion euros until the end of 2020, but we have to have good programmes for it. And we are not very good with programmes yet.
How has your personal experience as an MEP been so far?
There is a lot of work. Especially, when you are new you have to run around to learn things. I still do not know everything. If you want to work, there is a lot of work to do.
You are a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. In light of the EU elections what, in your opinion, needs reform in the European Union?
I think they need to listen more to the small countries, because I feel that small countries cannot do much. I do not think they listen to us so much. Maybe small countries should join together, or maybe they should help each other more.
How can your Group serve the European citizenship?
Many citizens come to us and ask us questions. In my case, because I am from Croatia, these are about the judicial system. I help them if their cases are not heard. It is mostly being there. If I do not know the answer, I go to the Commission, the Commission answers me and then I proceed. We are here and it is good for them to know that we are willing to help anytime they need help.
As a Member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, what do you think is the role of SMEs in society and how can entrepreneurs contribute to stimulate economic growth and employment in the EU?
I think that every Minister of Employment, every Minister of Finance, should talk together. They should form a group; a Minister of Finance should say to them “how can I help you so you can pay more taxes?” Which means: I help you, you work better, you have more workers, you have more profit, and then I get more taxes from that.
Relations should be friendly, not like “I am going to take money out of you and you do whatever you can”, it is always a two ways street: they should have meetings together, they should talk together, exchange plans together.
In Croatia, SMEs pay many taxes, so many different ones that it cannot work. I hope that the European Union will change this. They will see that there are lots of entrepreneurs running businesses or now starting, and the people will need help from the government; not because they want to hide money, or they want to cheat on their taxes, but because they need help to get started.
And that is when I think the Government should be there, to help them when they start moving. It should be a friendly relationship.
How do you think SMEs can help stimulating the economy?
In the same way. We all have to know what we need, we all have to know how to get there, what needs to be done. We all need to work together.
Not “I do not care about you, I only care that you pay taxes, and I do not care if you have any problems, I do not want to sit with you” but “maybe we can change something to help you out, just talking and being friends”. We cannot do without each other.
UNITEE represents entrepreneurs and business professionals with a migrant background, New Europeans, as we call them; and we believe that our members foster innovation and international trade. Do you agree? How do you think you can increase awareness on the benefits of diversity amongst EU citizens?
By talking, by meetings, by showing the examples on how people succeeded, by not putting borders but taking off the borders when they need to be. Talk is cheap, it does not mean anything; you have to show with your example how you really care and you really want to help. You are there to help.
Euroscepticism and anti-immigration parties are rising in several European countries. We recently interviewed MEP Joseph Daul at the EPP bureau meeting last November and he advised “do not give in to the far right”. Is this also the position of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group?
When I gained a seat in the European Parliament, I was asked by a few far right groups to join them and I did not want to. ECR believes in Europe, but not in a federal one. ECR believes in Europe as different countries that have the same rights and the same obligations. We should all make decisions together.
Some people mistrust the European Union because they think once you join you do not have to do anything because the money is going to start coming, but there is a lot of work required from both sides. If you have respect from both sides, it can work. As soon as one side thinks they are better or want to take advantage of the other, then it is not going to work.
Because all countries can benefit from each other, from this diversity.
Yes. As long as they talk like partners, with no country willing to dominate the other countries. There should be no domination, there is only partnership.