Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), The European Parliament President Roberta Metsola says she wants to use her remaining time in office to “better explain the role” of the assembly.
She was speaking to this website ahead of the much-awaited EU elections next spring.
There are fears that there may be an influx of right-wing and extremist politicians following the EU-wide poll which is held every five years.
In a Q&A, the Maltese-born centre-right MEP spoke of her hopes that “all citizens” will take part in the elections.
Brussels Morning: What do you want to achieve in the time you have left as president?
Metsola: “One of my priorities is to explain the role of the Parliament better, and to reach as many people as possible to show that the European project is alive and running. I want people to re-capture the sense of purpose, of enthusiasm for Europe. To create a Europe that is a little bit safer, better and a little bit fairer.
“I am aware that the European Union is not perfect, it is continuously evolving. The world is changing and we must change with it. Also, we need reform. We cannot be afraid of change. We must embrace it as we keep listening, keep explaining and keep delivering.
“For that, Europe needs all citizens to take part in the next year European elections. It is important that people take an interest and care. The right to vote is the right to complain. Every vote matters. My message is: don´t let anyone else chose for you.”
Brussels Morning: How significant are next year’s elections, for the EP and countries like the US and France in terms of shaping the world over the next few years?
“Voting in the European elections means ensuring that Europe remains focused on striving for justice, for equality of opportunity and real democracy. It also means upholding the democratic voice of citizens and shaping the future of Europe.
“All Member States will play a crucial role in ensuring that the House of European democracy delivers on its promises. And to make sure that the EU remains not only the world’s largest trading block but also a superpower of values.
“We share with the US the same values, dreams, and promise for a better and safer future. We need to continue working together to counter the influence of regimes like Russia and China, regardless of what the European Parliament will look like next year.
“We cannot rely on China, with a value set very different to ours, or on an aggressive, expansionist Russia. Our way is different and I think it is worth defending and worth convincing others of that. Ultimately, we need to rely on our friends and not our foes.”
Brussels Morning: What are your expectations for the EP elections, eg in voter turn out? Are you concerned that populists may make further inroads?
Metsola: “It is my responsibility to make sure that I get to as many people as possible who feel disenfranchised and ignored, who do not feel represented, who are today thinking “Where is Europe on the things that matter?”.
“Increasing voter turnout is therefore my priority, and I will make sure that we reach every corner of Europe and that we explain the role of the European Parliament better. I hope that the positive trend observed in the voter turnout at the last European elections in 2019, will thus continue.
“When visiting all the EU Member States, my goal is to show the values that underpin our work at the Parliament. I want citizens to be aware of the fact that our Parliament delivers, but it can only do so if there is a clear majority that stays away from extremisms of populist derivations, a majority anchored in the European centre.
“Populism has shown us that we cannot take our core values of peace, democracy and solidarity for granted. We also cannot ignore people feeling distant, as failing to address people’s fears will only lead to increased polarisation.
“So yes, I am concerned about the rise of populism, but I will do everything to show that populism is no more than the art of selling easy solutions. The European Union is not perfect; I know many share our frustrations with some of our processes. But the fundamental pillars of hope, freedom, democracy and the rule of law, make this political project work. In this sense, only the constructive pro-European political centre can deliver.”
Brussels Morning: What will you miss after you end your term and what are your longer-term ambitions eg in EU or domestic politics?
Metsola: “We still have almost an entire year ahead of us before the 2024 European elections, so my focus right now is not on what will happen after this term but much rather on continuing to advance on the many important files we still have on the table.
“I am also trying to visit all member states to raise awareness for the elections and talk to people about why voting is so crucial because at the end of the day, it is all about democracy – that is at the very core of all of what we do in the European Parliament.
“And leading this Parliament is an honour of a lifetime which is precisely why I will give my all until the last minute of my mandate to make this House more effective and more modern. I believe in the Parliament and how critical it is for the democratic legitimacy of our project and that’s my goal. The future of the Parliament must be a strong one.”