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Published on April 30th, 2014 | by Alexandra LACROIX | Credit: UNITEE

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“You may not care about Europe but Europe takes care of you.”, Interview with MEP Marc Tarabella

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Marc Tarabella is a Belgian MEP for the Group of the Socialists and Democrats. As a member of the Committees on Agriculture and Rural Development and on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, he speaks to UNITEE about the progression of gender equality in Europe, the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the protection of consumers and immigrant entrepreneurship.

You were Rapporteur on Equality between women and men in the European Union in 2009. Five years later, can we say that there have been improvements? Is gender equality constantly progressing in Europe?

Yes, there have been improvements, especially in the public sphere. You only needs to look at the representation of women in the public sphere. The European Parliament consisted for 30% of women in the 2004-2009 legislature and for 35% in the current Parliament. It is not enough, but it has improved.

In every country, gender equality is increasing: after the Nordic countries, Spain under José Luis Zapatero launched the idea of ​​a parity-based government; France did the same with François Hollande and Italy, with Matteo Renzi, is following suit.

In the private sphere, it is much less the case.

Indeed, there is currently an under-representation of women in senior positions in the private sector. Are you for or against quotas?

I am in favour of quotas. Although the policy of quotas is often criticised, it has proved successful in Norway: the representation of women at senior levels in publicly traded companies increased from 8-9 % to 40 % in ten years.

This position is shared by a large majority of MEPs, including conservative MEPs. The European Parliament has just passed through the initiative of Mrs Reding, Commissioner for Gender Equality, to have quotas for women in the boards of publicly traded companies.

As my French colleague from the EPP aptly puts it, quotas are a necessary evil. You must use coercion to get things moving. Without quotas, the situation will never change.

You are a member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. The priority of the 2009 – 2014 legislature was the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Can you tell us a few words about it?

One of the major signs of this reform is the ability to redistribute aid more equally between farmers, both between Member States and within Member States, in different types of production. In particular, the reform seeks to better help the livestock sector, which is suffering more than the cereal sector.

The weak point of the reform is that we have failed to properly regulate markets. The CAP is not the eighth wonder of the world. It is the result of a compromise between 28 Member States with different realities. But there were positive signs, including, for example, a greater respect for the environment.

Fairness and flexibility are the two words that best sum up the new Common Agricultural Policy.

You are also a substitute of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. The Parliament recently adopted two texts aimed at strengthening the protection of consumers. What are the main lines of this legislation?

The starting point was the large-scale espionage conducted by the United States via the NSA, which concerned senior European leaders but also any EU citizen who uses search engines like Google or social networking sites like Facebook.

With this report, the Parliament reaffirmed that data protection is a fundamental value in Europe, unlike in the United States, where business is put above all other variables. If there is a profiling, there must be an explicit consent of the citizen. Citizens must be able to choose.

The report also calls for major operators to no longer transfer European data automatically to the United States without the consent of national authorities for example. It was also decided to give more dissuasive sanctions.

As you know, UNITEE represents New European entrepreneurs and business professionals, who live and work in Europe, while having cultural and linguistic ties with third countries. Do you think that Europe makes full use of their potential?

What is great about Europe, and about Belgium in particular, is that there is a real possibility to use your full potential when you are from another country.

Speaking several languages ​​and possessing several cultures is a richness and an asset. But, of course, sometimes it can also be a challenge. I understand and feel for those people who come talk to me about their difficulties in finding a job or housing, simply because of their foreign sounding name.

It is important thing to break down these barriers, for example through cultural and economic exchanges.

Belgium, and Europe in general, could also go further in developing a more harmonised neighbourhood relationship with neighbouring countries, such as Turkey or those located at the southern shores of the Mediterranean, using New Europeans as a bridge.

What would be your message to encourage New Europeans to vote in the European elections in 2014?

Go vote! Because you have chosen to live in Belgium or in Europe.

You may not care about European policies, but Europe takes care of you every day. Everything that is decided at the European level has an impact on your everyday life.

Be interested in European politics. Make choices, do not abstain. Whatever your choice, express yourself!

Worldwide, the countries in which people have the right to vote are a minority. So make the best of your right!

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