Societal issues have become more and more global. So how can being a Member of the European Parliament and dealing with international issues help you when running for a local office?
Find out how Hélène FLAUTRE, MEP since 1999 and chief candidate of Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts (the French green party) for the city of Arras, answers this question. In this interview, she also gives us an analysis on the state of play in the accession negotiations with Turkey.
You are chief candidate of Europe-Ecologie-les Verts for the 2014 French municipal elections. Therefore, you are particularly interested in local issues. How does your work in your constituency fit in with the legislative work in Brussels?
The mandate of MEP is one of the most exciting mandates. It allows you to discuss fundamental questions with an international network and with civil society representatives who create cross-national syntheses of the issues they work on.
It also gives you a different understanding of the world that, in turn, helps you approach local issues with a broader viewpoint and with greater resources.
For example, the mandate of MEP helped me understand that it is vital to encourage cities to participate in European and global networks, as these networks have developed innovative practices on issues such as gender equality, climate change, and health for all… For the Greens, all these challenges are essentially dealt with both at the local and European level.
Which are the highlights of your programme, as candidate for the municipal elections?
The ecological and social transition lies at the heart of our project. Nowadays, the majority of people live in cities, and therefore critical issues must be resolved at the city level.
How to develop rich cities, with many services, while still being able to resolve the issues of mobility in the city, the accessibility of services to all residents? How to fight against social segregation, which is also a spatial segregation?
On these issues, the Greens’ approaches seem relevant to me. For example, a plan for thermal renovation of existing buildings has multiple effects: job creation, decrease in people’s heating bill, which means more purchasing power, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy independence…
The Greens’ solution is not to say: there is a social, ecological, economic crisis and let’s look at what can be done in each sector. Rather, it is to seek answers which can help us face all the crises simultaneously.
You are President of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee. The European Union has decided to open on October 22, 2013, a new chapter in the accession negotiations with Turkey, ending a three-year freeze of the process. Is it a clear signal of a new start in the negotiation talks?
Of course, it is extremely important that the three-year freeze was interrupted. But to transform this interruption into a fresh start of the negotiation talks will still require a lot of energy. Chapter 22 must be followed by other Chapters, such as Chapter 23, Chapter 24.
Today, the issue of democratization in Turkey is on the table. However, various challenges remain. The situation is fragile, because the Turkish authorities are tempted to whip up nationalist sentiment, which we know all too well in Europe. Europe’s experience with nationalism should serve as an example, so history will not repeat itself.
How will the question of Turkey’s accession be addressed during the upcoming European election campaign?
The issue of Turkey is used to send an underlying, manipulative message. If it is not the rejection of Muslims in Europe, it is at least the idea that Muslims, even those who are already European, are not quite European. That they are not the true Europeans, or worse, don’t belong to Europe. In this context, UNITEE’s action is relevant and positive.
UNITEE represents New European entrepreneurs, that is, people who live and work in Europe while having cultural and linguistic ties with third countries. Do you think Europe, but also the Member States and France in particular, make full use of the potential offered by these New Europeans?
Europeans with a migrant background have generally little visibility. The same applied to the fact of diversity within a nation that is still not recognised enough. In times of anxiety, of crisis, there is always a temptation to seek a kind of original purity or to build a collective image based on the past in order to reassure people.
Instead, it is important to have policies that recognise people in their diversity, including immigrant entrepreneurs. It is a very effective way to fight against segregation, discrimination and racism, and to improve the way we live together.
Unfortunately, we currently see the lifting of certain taboos. As if someone had opened the floodgates of racism, creating an unhealthy climate.
What would be your message to encourage New Europeans to vote in municipal and European elections in 2014?
The message must be the same as to European citizens. I do not have a communitarian vision. I really think that the “European republic” should allow everyone, regardless of his/her origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation etc… to be a full citizen.
The New Europeans must also be able to run for elections, to support candidates and engage politically or socially. It would be quite disturbing and disqualifying for Europe to turn inward and isolate itself, while networks become increasingly international and the main issues are faced at the global level.
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