The 2014 European elections: Sylvia Goulard, what have been your achievements as an MEP?
Looking forward to the elections to the European Parliament on 25 May next, Europeinfos is conducting a series of interviews to shed light on the role and work of Members of the European Parliament.
Sylvie Goulard is a French MEP and member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Elected in 2009, she sits on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON).
Could you tell us your most important success during your current term as MEP?
My best experience has been chairing the Intergroup on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. We have been working, particularly in collaboration with ATD Fourth World , to give the most marginalised people a chance to speak out. This for me was extremely important in the current atmosphere where people are losing interest in Europe and inequality keeps rising. ATD Fourth World prepares the way for such people to meet political leaders and experts. It’s always an emotional occasion where valuable discussions take place. As the Intergroup brings together politicians right across the spectrum, it is also a unique opportunity for cooperation across national and partisan borders, bringing together a German politician from the extreme Left, a religious minister, a conservative Spanish MEP , a British member of the Green Party, an Italian Democrat and myself, all of us imbued with the same beliefs.
I have also been battling hard against the finance ministers and the European Council to prevent the Executive Board of the European Central Bank from being a purely masculine stronghold. Together with both male and female colleagues, we managed to summon a massive vote on this topic in the European Parliament’s Plenary Session. Since then, two women have been appointed to key positions, on the Executive Board and in the domain of banking supervision. The ECB has also taken steps within its organisation to encourage wider diversity. It is a question of justice for young highly-educated women whose careers are slowed down when they are trying to reach positions of responsibility. It also affects representation in the European institutions, which must reflect society, not stay aloof from it.
Could you describe to us your worst experience?
I have an amazing faculty for forgetting disagreeable experiences ….. But if I had to point out one failure in the system, it is the ‘spirit of negativity’ which, as Goethe wrote, is the mark of the ‘Evil One’. National political leaders, but also intellectuals, and journalists all struggle to raise awareness of increasing global interdependence. A change of scale is happening right now with the emergence of major powers that hardly get a mention in national debates.
In this context Europe is able to contribute solutions. But Europe still has to be taken seriously. All too often, national governments balk at respecting the treaties that they have signed; they attribute to them every evil to avoid seeing what is going wrong at national level. Some parties send as their parliamentary representatives people who had failed in national elections and have too little to offer. Taken as a whole, the media – particularly television channels – give too little coverage to what is going on in Brussels, which automatically means that the citizens are under-informed. In such circumstances is it so very surprising to find non-participation, or the steady advance of Eurosceptics?
What do you see as the core of your role as an MEP?
In the European Parliament your reputation is built on being a team player. Throughout my term of office, it’s as a ‘captain’ (in the sense of heading a sports team) that I have seen my role as coordinator of the ALDE (Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe) on economic and monetary questions. Coordinators organise the workload, share out the reports, act as spokesmen, by default, for their group. They are the interface with the media, the other institutions, business sectors affected by legislation. The EP’s Economic and Monetary Affairs ECON Committee has played a particularly important role during this Parliamentary term. We have approved numerous texts reshaping the rules for the functioning of the Eurozone and supervising finance.
I was myself a member of several rapporteur teams working on the complex legislative texts: ‘6 pack’ and ‘2 pack’ on the reform of governance in the Eurozone; the Directive on the solvency of insurance companies; the creation of authorities for supervising the markets, insurance companies and banks, and later the banking supervision authority for ECB-linked banks. I was also in charge of the Parliament’s initiative report on Eurobonds. While a member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, I chose the protection of the quality of viticulture as my priority area; we managed to conserve planting rights.
Which political figure inspired you most to become involved in politics and in European politics?
Jean Monnet and Mario Monti. Both men were committed but independent in their judgments and in their actions.
What in your opinion is missing at the level of organisational structure or attributes of the European Parliament? Which sector is in the most urgent need of initiating reform?
Some problems are legal and others are linked to implementation.
By virtue of its treaties the Parliament has several important legislative powers: the normal legislative process makes provision for it to be a co-legislator, on equal footing with the Council. But it as yet has no powers to make appointments, nor to exercise control over Europe’s decision makers. The Union is not a ‘government’. Between the Commission (which reports to the European Parliament and the European Council) and the EU Council (not answerable to anybody in its capacity as a collective body), the ECB and the ‘Troika’ which includes the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Europe’s citizens are at a loss to know who is taking the decisions. Finally, the Parliament does not even have any genuine budgetary powers.
As for implementation, there’s a paradox affecting a number of our European leaders: they want to have all the advantages which the Union and a common currency secure for them while still retaining all their national sovereignty.
Parliament has been called an elected assembly with universal direct voting yet not having the attributes of a real Parliament, and whose role has never been defined: is it a House of Member State representatives? Or is it an Assembly taking decisions in the name of all Europeans?
Even the national Parliaments have begun to claim a European role, without always providing proof that they are capable of effective control at national level, nor is it certain that they are capable of ensuring any degree of Europe-level ‘accountability’. This power game is childish and not in the general interest.
Interviewed by Frank Turner SJ
Translated from the original text in French