Ska Keller MEP: “It is important that young people’s voices are heard!”

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.

Ska Keller is an MEP and one of the candidates for President of the European Commission for the Greens/EFA Group. She is the youngest candidate and the only woman in the competition. She was first elected as a member of the European Parliament in 2009, at the age of 27. She works mainly on asylum and migration and for a just EU development and trade policy. She also stands for youth empowerment and is active in fighting against right-wing extremism. Before being elected as an MEP, Keller was a youth activist with the Greens in Germany and with the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG). 

Focused on a gender equality policy, the Greens have nominated two candidates for the EC Presidency – one male and one female. How exactly will they share the role is still not clear.

Ska Keller and José Bové were selected during an open European wide online primary (the Green Primary), the first ever of its kind. This gave Keller the opportunity to travel and campaign across Europe and, as part of her tour, she visited Bristol. Keller had the opportunity to understand more about the diversity of the city and to meet some locals.

Here is what she said for the readers of OneEurope:

One Europe (OE): What made you stand for this position?

Ska Keller (SK): “It is the dream job for me. I really love working on the European level, because it is so much about overcoming borders. I am from a border region - from the Polish-German border. When I grew up the border was still very closed – you had to wait and show your passport. But now, since Poland is a member of the EU, it has become much more open and you can cross the border without any problem. For me this is the spirit of Europe – crossing borders, crossing bridges. That is why it is so fantastic to have a European campaign and to go to all these member states, to campaign with the Greens everywhere and to notice that they are all the same and fighting for the same ideas. That is very motivating!”

OE: What do you think about the proposed European energy union?

SK: “It depends on the content. Cooperation is always good, but currently we have Euroatom [European Atomic Energy Community], which I think is not a good idea and we should get rid of that. Instead we need to have cooperation in the field of renewable energy. We need to define the aim of this cooperation.”

OE: You have worked a lot on the European Youth Guarantee. What is its future?

SK: It really depends on the implementation. We should make sure it is not just empty words and unpaid internships for young people. That is not the Youth Guarantee – that are just measures in order to keep people out of the unemployment statistics. We need to make sure that is a meaningful guarantee. We need to have stricter rules for what sorts of jobs are acceptable, what sort of payment there is, what sort of educational content there should be.

And I think it needs to be extended age wise, because currently it is until 25. A lot of people who are coming out of university at 25-26 or 27 are now in the same position. That is also part of the crisis - even though they have a good education they can’t get a job. We need to make sure that the age limit is extended to 30.

The issue with young people is not just about jobs. I think it is really important that young people’s voices are heard much more. Currently this really is an issue that because parties think that young people are not engaged and they don’t go to vote. It is really important that young people get engaged and make their voices heard and take part in decision making processes.

OE: How do you think this can happen?

SK: Parties need to encourage young people’s participation and really listen to what they have to say. But it is also a lot about young people taking up the initiative and not waiting until they are being asked. It is important that they make their voices heard, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable – with street protests for example.

OE: But on the other hand, the protests in Bulgaria are going on for almost a year now and seem to have no effect. That might be discouraging.

SK: I don’t think so. They have been getting a lot of attention and there have been some changes there.

OE: What would be the first thing that you would do in Brussels, if you were elected?

SK: Youth unemployment should be on top of the agenda. We need to change the way our economy works – we should invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, but also in education and health care. Those are the things that create jobs now, but they create jobs that will be here in 40-50 years and give a prospective to young people. If you change the economy, it will be beneficial for everybody. We should make the EU more democratic and that again affects not only young people.

OE: What can the EU do, so that EU citizens feel more welcome in the UK?

SK: This happens on a local level.  If you make a law on “feeling welcome”, you won’t get much out of it. But what the EU can do is to be very strict about guaranteeing citizen rights and to make sure that every citizen’s rights are regarded no matter where they are.

OE: Barroso said that “the case of the UK may be seen as a special one."Do you agree?

SK: Every single of the 28 member states is special.

OE: What is your message to our readers?

SK: Everybody should have a close look at what sort of a European Union they want. Make a choice on the EU that you want to see. That is what the vote is about: it’s not about in or out, it’s about the Europe you want; it’s also not about national policy, but about EU ones.

The interview has been organized and taken by Yuliya Kosharevska. 

Edited by: Margarida Hourmat
Photo credits:
Yuliya Kosharevska