Strong advocate of the European ideal, Martina Dlabajová (ALDE), stands for a better and cleverer Europe and likes to remind that nothing has to be taken for granted. Former entrepreneur, multilingual and passionate, the Czech MEP shared her views with UNITEE on employment in Europe and her solutions to tackle youth unemployment.
Do you think that your business background helped you in your political career?
Undoubtedly! I founded and was the CEO of my first company engaged in international and project consulting, Seven Partners, and, later, owned several companies both in Italy, the Czech Republic and in Slovakia. I started when I was eighteen, I have always been a businesswoman. I figured that I could use this experience to make politics more pragmatic, and closer and more adapted to the citizens and to businesses.
How can we tackle this gap between these seemingly almighty institutions and us, citizens?
The past few years have been tough for the Union. We had to face the economic crisis and the rise of unemployment that particularly affects young people – to name a few. They have created some sort of negative feeling towards Europe and its institutions.
Unfortunately, some national governments blame the EU for their problems and this is something I simply cannot accept. The EU should not be an excuse to any dubious behaviour or decisions. “We are Europe, we are all responsible for the decisions we make”, this is what we need to explain to European citizens.
My role as a Member of the European Parliament will be to fill this gap, inform people, both in Europe and in the Czech Republic, about the EU programmes, funding and opportunities and how can citizens make the best out of them.
Swedish MEP, Gunnar HÖKMAR (EPP) once said: “New European entrepreneurs can play a huge role. Knowledge of languages and cultures can open doors to European neighbour market, which are crucial for most European companies”, do you agree with this statement?
First, migrants’ positive contribution is not used at its fullest, there are so much more that is yet to be done.
New Europeans can, indeed, be a great benefit for businesses. Knowledge of languages and cultures is going to be a massive asset for them. I recall, back in 1994, in Italy, I was the immigrant and my big success in business was knowing Eastern European languages and knowing the culture and mentalities they englobed. I was a bridge between Italy, and to a larger extent, what Europe was then, and Czech Republic. But, from my point of view, everything goes down to skills. We have to see whether those New Europeans can bring the skills that are required and useful for Europe. The biggest problem at the moment is the mismatch between skills and jobs.
How can entrepreneurship be fostered – be it ethnic or not?
I would like to see entrepreneurship be facilitated for everyone. Everyone should be able to put forward the business model or set up their own company or start-up or spin-off (at University) without having to deal with excessively demanding and time-consuming paperwork.
This is why I am supporting the establishment of an internal work group, here in the Parliament, which aims at fighting administrative burden. We, in the European Institutions, have to make sure that there are simpler rules and that everyone understands from an administrative, bureaucratic point of view and gets the gist of funding, bank help and everything that is already at their disposal for their setting up their own business.
How can SMEs and entrepreneurship stimulate economic growth in the EU?
SMEs are the backbone of the European Economy and key to innovation as well. If Europe wants to run the marathon with the fast-running world economies and keep up with globalisation, it needs motivated, innovative and talented people. I can assure you that the SME world overflows with them. We just need to acknowledge them and give them room to prosper. The worst sin in life is to have a talent and not use it.
Youth unemployment is increasing. Which European policy can tackle this issue? As a member of the EMPL Committee, have you witnessed some improvement?
My top priority is to match skills and jobs since this is one of the causes of (youth) unemployment. All the relevant stakeholders, businesses, ministries, regions and national education systems in each EU country should forecast what skills will be needed in the future, what do the internal and regional markets need and, somehow, change the education system.
There is a clear mismatch between what is needed and what is offered. Interesting things can also be done such as Youth Guarantee, the European Commission’s “new approach to tackling youth unemployment which ensures that all young people under 25 get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed”. Every Member State should implement this programme and find clever and effective ways to improve it.
However, policies are not the only way out. What young people mostly lack is motivation: we need happier and more motivated workforce, like carpenters or plumbers, than unhappy and unmotivated lawyers or physicians. Maybe they do not understand that motivation is the one thing that help you keep going and achieve your dreams.
You have also launched an innovative project in the Czech Republic…
One of my personal projects is a very creative idea from my team made up with young and extremely motivated people, both in Brussels and in Czech Republic. It is called Why Not? , meaning “why not trying to fight for our dreams?”
We want to offer young people the opportunity to do their dream job (as part of an internship or of a practice-ship). I believe that successful traineeships can prove students that it makes sense to actively take care of their future job and their future life.
We managed to have big Czech institutions and companies involved and we presented this project to students and we had an amazingly positive feedback, from students, industries, and ministries and institutions.
Young people do not have to have the best degree, but they have to have the best motivation.
Martina Dlabajová is an ALDE MEP and the Vice-chair on the Committee on Budgetary Control, Member of Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and Substitute member of Committee on Transport and Tourism since July 2014. You can read more about her unique project clicking on TZ_youth employment!