German MEP and Green Party politician Terry Reintke is one of a new group of young parliamentarians who are trying to shake up the establishment in Brussels. We spoke to her about some of the issues that she feels need to be put on the agenda at a European level.
Ciara: Why did you decide to become politically active and what made you align yourself to the Green party in Germany?
Terry: Since I can remember, I wanted to change the world. Going into politics seemed like a logical step to do that. However, I never planned on becoming a politician myself.
In the end I realised that some of the things I wanted to change will only happen if I sit in a position of power myself. I was already active within the Federation of Young European Greens because they best represented what I fight for, a social, open and sustainable Europe, so I decided to become active with the Green Party.
C: As one of only a handful of female politicians in Europe, has your gender impacted your political career?
T: It was both a challenge and benefit to me when I started. Of course, it can be hard to be taken seriously when you are discussing difficult political positions as a young woman who is constantly surrounded by older men. However, what helped me was a network of strong women who supported me in my candidacy - both politically as well as emotionally.
During a campaign, working on any project or trying out something new, you will always make mistakes. Unexpected things will suddenly pop up and so it is impossible to be prepared for everything. As politicians we are still very often expected to be prepared for every eventuality. It is this pressure that keeps many people - especially women - from trying to get involved in politics in the first place. Female led networks have been empowering for me and helped me to get through these shit times.
C: Given these pressures for female politicians, why do you feel it is important for more women to become politically active in 2018/2019?
T: Simply, women should be where the power is. We still see an alarming underrepresentation of women in all top-level decision-making positions. That has to change! Not in another one hundred years, but now! While doing that we should realise the intersections of power and powerlessness. Then, we can fight exclusion together.
C: As an active MEP, what are the main issues that worry you, for example is the Brexit issue the main discussion among you and your peers?
T: I work a lot on human rights issues. I’m deeply worried about the developments of the rule of law and the state of European values within the European Union and its member states. We see constant backlash against women’s rights, the rights of minorities or LGBTI. I want to fight along with activists who struggle for freedom, justice and equality. This also means fighting right wing populism and defending European values. Brexit and the future of the EU are very closely related to that. We have seen that hate speech and misinformation concerning the EU and its social policies led to the outcome of the British referendum to leave. It is central for me that we make progress around social security within the European Union.
C: Finally, with the European elections coming next May, how do you think national governments can help highlight the important work being done by the European Union institutions?
T: Unfortunately, we have seen that national governments usually play the old blame game. If something good happens they take the credit, but if something bad happens the EU gets the blame. That has to stop! It is worth fighting for political majorities within the European Parliament. European politics are more important than ever. We can influence the lives of Europeans by our daily work. That has to be made clear.