In your work on tackling youth employment, what was your aim?
The Free Democratic Party (FDP, ALDE) always welcomed the commitment from European leaders to a 6 billion euro package, in the form of the Youth Guarantee, as a short term measure. However, it is not sufficient in terms of addressing massive structural problems. It should not be used as an excuse for avoiding, or not even considering, reforms in education and labour markets. However, training needs to better meet demand on the labour market.
Germany is a role model with its dual education system. The FDP also expects the European Commission to take a more active role to contribute to the development of vocational education in countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy.
In the European Parliament’s US NSA surveillance programme own initiative report you tabled a large number of amendments. Why is this dossier so important for you?
The widespread surveillance and spying on European citizens from has resulted in a huge loss of confidence in politics and in the economy for the USA and the Internet. However, on unanimous and sharp criticism of European policy, we are still waiting.
In the European Parliament, the FDP has advocated the suspension of international agreements with the US which involve any transfer of data, simply because we cannot guarantee protection for citizens in this area under the circumstances. In a resolution, we are committed to suspending the safe harbour and SWIFT agreement s. We did not manage it with air passenger data as the EPP and S&D blocked it. We also need to clarify agreements on data protection in the free trade agreements with the US, the so-called TTIP negotiations. More trade and investment cannot come at the cost of citizens’ rights – they are not for sale!
As vice-chair of the EMPL committee, what do you think will be the legacy of this legislature in terms of building a Social Europe?
The EU’s internal market creates opportunities not only for companies but for employees. The FDP does not separate these two issues because both elements are important. It is also important to improve the living and working conditions of EU citizens. Funding instruments such as the European Social Fund (ESF) are crucial for people’s qualifications and supporting their job search. In addition, the ESF supports projects that will reduce the school dropout rates. This will prevent a “lost generation “. However, Member States have no choice but to carry out structural reforms in order to cope with the impact of the current crisis.
The FDP backed the creation of a new EU program for employment and social innovation for 2014-2020, contributing more to employment and social inclusion. The FDP has also endorsed the EMPL report on an “innovative social economy “. Let’s also think about better mutual recognition of qualifications, giving young people better opportunities in the European labour market.
What has the crisis done for public services in Europe?
In many European countries the financial crisis provoked and still continues to provoke cuts. The consequences of austerity are particularly felt by public services. This is where most countries are most likely to make savings. However, the reductions and structural changes in public services are long overdue and, in some countries, necessary. In some countries the public sector has been disproportionately large compared to the economy. A leaner and more efficient government will stimulate growth.
What are your key messages to voters ahead of the upcoming European elections?
As liberals, we are committed to the European single market, to completing it. By doing so, for example in the digital domain, there are huge opportunities for new business ideas, for small and medium-sized enterprises and creating jobs. Getting people into work and giving them opportunities that match their qualifications as well as the needs of the labour market – this is all part of our key message.
Europe is a continent of opportunity – and opportunity for everyone. But in order to properly fulfill its potential, there are still obstacles to be removed.
Nadja Hirsch MEP is Vice-Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and member of the Delegation for relations with the United States.
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