Even though they are similar in many ways; both are young women from Scandinavian countries, Emilie Turunen and Amelia Andersdotter have very different experiences of the EU. But they agree on one thing; the EU fails at representing all of Europe.
“I heard that my party, the SF (Socialist Liberal Party), wanted a young candidate for the 2008 referendum. I was first voted through by the party and then chosen in the referendum.”Emelie Turunen answers when asked how she became an MEP (member of the European Parliament) . She was 25 years old when she started. Today you have to be nominated by your party in Denmark in order to become an MEP, but back then you could just sign up.
“I was the head of the SF youth party and a member of the SF board, and when the opportunity came up I took the chance because I wanted to do something different.”
Amelia Andersdotter on the other hand had no plans to run for the place as MEP.
“It was an accident that I ended up here. I joined the pirate party in 2006 and 2009 I was nominated” she says.
Both Emilie and Amelia came to the parliament at a very young age, but their experiences differ. Emilie had a hard time adjusting and felt she was treated differently because of her age.
“It meant a completely different life! It took a while to get used to how everything worked” says Emilie Turunen. “It’s a good, liberal and open workplace but it did happen that some of the older men disregarded you because you’re a young woman.”
“I don’t feel that I am treated any different because I am younger” is Amelia’s answer to the same question and she rather feels that it is an advantage to be younger since you bring in new ideas and perspectives.
“It’s definitely important to reflect the population both when it comes to age, gender and education. Representing different levels of education is the biggest problem and most members have the same background. The risk is that a lot of people get excluded” says Emilie Turunen.
On a national level many of the European countries have a much better representation of the population than on the European level, especially when it comes to gender equality. The European Parliament is moving forward, but slowly.
“It is difficult because representatives are decided on a member state level. It’s not something that you discuss in the parliament since they can’t affect it.” Says Amelia Andersdotter.
The question of age in the Parliament
The age issue is a problem that is starting to become apparent. With a very high average age and few young people coming into the parliament it may create difficulties when the MEP’s start retiring.
“There are different projects to attract young people to the EU. We have the Erasmus programme and there are several internships. But when it comes to Members of parliament there isn’t much the EU can do, it’s up to the member states” says Amelia Andersdotter.
“In Denmark there is right now a tough discussion on young politicians. Lately we have had several young politicians come forward and now there is kind of a revolt against them, the public doesn’t believe that they can handle the job” s
ays Emilie Turunen. “But there is a big difference between the parties, the greens for example are good at attracting young people. Some countries are working on it too; Germany, France and the Netherlands for example have a lot of young MEP’s, says Emilie Turunen.
Both MEP’s agree that the European Parliament should be more representative of the European population. But since the EU can’t affect who becomes a MEP the parties in each country need to be aware of the problem and try to consider it in their nominations. And in the end it comes down to the voters. The people of Europe have to realize that they have a say and vote for the candidate they feel represents them the best.
Amelia Andersdotter to the far left