Today was our last day in Brussels, and we visited the European Parliament for our final time.
Our speaker was Sophie in’ t Veld. in ‘t Veld is a Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands. She is currently a part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and she previously served on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. She also was a member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
She briefly introduced herself to us, and we got to ask her questions right away. Our first question concerned women’s rights in Europe. in ‘t Veld began with a simple statement, “It is everyone’s duty to promote gender equality.” She emphasized that external policies are required to effectively fight against inequality. As well, she believes that standards must be set in terms of EU policy areas–issues such as abortion rights should not be dealt by the European Union but by local and national governments.
In terms of current immigration issue, she explained that she simply cannot accept the fact that many European countries are so unwilling to receive more immigrants. It is not fair to say, she said, that Italy needs to process paperwork for such a big number of immigrants simply due to its geographical location. She compared the percentages of accepted immigrants by different countries, and it was clear how so many countries can do so much more, yet many of them continue to live under fear of the new influx of unknown faces. Along with that, she talked about how the new rise of conservative beliefs and populist ideas are related to the “fear of the new” that the people have today. People tend to stick to what they know during the times of instability and uncertainty. They attempt to counter the flow of new development and go back to how it was in the old days, and such phenomenon can be explained through recent events such as the presidential election of the United States and Brexit.
She continued to respond to more of our questions in areas of environmental policies, data protection and privacy, and security. Despite the less-than-an-hour time that was given for this meeting, Sophie in ‘t Veld gave us so much insight and her own views on the issues that we considered pressing. One thing she said that stuck to me the most: “The fact that we can be sure that we will not have a war… that already means that we are incredibly successful.” We thanked her for her time and her passionate talk. I really wished we had more time to talk to her, because she was certainly my favorite speaker that we got to talk to throughout the program.
We headed back to our homes right after the meeting, and we got our (packed) suitcases and headed to the Brussels Central Station! Our last visit to the European Parliament was an excellent way of finishing our three-weeks-and-a-half journey in Brussels. We said final goodbye to the country of delicate chocolates, mannequin pis, frites, convoluted government system, and genuineness. On our seven hour ride to Berlin, I got to reflect on the days that I truly got to enjoy in Brussels. I am more than sure that I will come back in the future–hopefully with my much improved French.