Catherine Bearder MEP: "If you don't vote then others will, and they will end up speaking for you."

OneEurope is presenting a series of interviews with MEPs in order to help Europeans make an informed decision for the elections. You can find the others in our debate on the European Elections 2014.

Catherine Bearder MEP is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East of England. She has also been a local Councillor and development officer for major national charities for many years. 

Catherine has also created a "Euromyth Buster" Facebook page which highlights reports in the press, which "do a very good job at burying the facts".

OneEurope: Mrs Bearder, you are a highly experienced politician and have served as an MEP since 2009. What motivated you to become an MEP? 

Catherine Bearder MEP: It was the environment that got me into politics. I am so concerned with what we a doing to our planet and our precious biodiversity and I knew that I wanted to do something about it. 

Much like many of the issues we work on as MEPs, the damage to our environment does not respect borders. It’s something that can only be tackled at an international level.

OE: Many people feel disconnected from the European Union and have little if any idea of what an MEP actually does. What does a day in the life of Catherine Bearder MEP look like?

CB: There is no average day I can tell you. The role of an MEP is primarily to represent their constituents in the parliament. We amend and vote on legislation. 

When not in Brussels or Strasbourg, I try to spend as much of my time as possible getting around my large constituency. One issue that I campaign strongly on regularly in my constituency is human trafficking. I work with a number of local groups across the South East raising awareness of this most disgusting of crimes.

OE: What have been your key successes in your work as an MEP?

CB: I am very proud of the work I have done helping to protect a number of the world’s endangered species. I secured agreement from the key countries so there would not be another “one-off” sale of Ivory.

I’m also proud of the reforms in the EU that we've been able to achieve over the last five years. The Common Fisheries Policy is a great example. I took a group of fishermen from my constituency out to Brussels who have always fished in a sustainable way to make their case to the Fisheries Commissioner. We have also been able to scrap the crazy policy of discarding perfectly good fish into the sea.

OE: What will your top five priorities be, if you get re-elected?

CB: I will continue to focus on the issues that I am passionate about. 

More needs to be done to protect our environment. We also need to make it easier for police forces to work together to tackle cross-border crime such as human trafficking.

As Europe emerges from a devastating recession, the issue of getting our economy growing in a fair and sustainable way again will be vital both in the UK and right across the EU.

I will also continue working to get people more engaged in European politics.

OE: At OneEurope we are very keen to promote youth engagement in EU affairs and politics. Unfortunately youth absenteeism in European Parliament elections is worryingly high and many young people feel that politicians fail to recognise and address the issues that matter most to them. How do you engage with young people in your work as an MEP? Will you seek in your electoral campaign to encourage more young people to vote in the European Parliament Elections?

CB: I have engaged with young people in various ways since being elected. I regularly speak at schools across my constituency and work closely with a UK organisation called Bite the Ballot which has been set up to increase the engagement of youth in politics.

I have consistently encouraged young people to vote in this and all elections and will always continue to do so.

OE: What communication platforms do you use to engage with your constituents? Do you find social media an effective tool to increase engagement of citizens in EU affairs?

CB: I use all possible platforms to engage with constituents. From old fashioned leaflets to Facebook and Twitter. I have an email newsletter that goes out every month and you can subscribe here.

OE: It might seem self-evident for some, but given the ever decreasing voter turnout it is worth asking: why vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections? Do the European Parliament elections really matter?

CB: You should always vote. Politicians often describe the upcoming election as the most important ever but these ones really are!

Nationalist parties are emerging across Europe and in the UK particularly, the debate has become one of whether we should continue to remain in the EU.

If you don't vote then others will, and they will end up speaking for you.