The youngest MEP and Pirate Party member - in interview
by Justin Stares
Amelia Andersdotter, the European Parliament's youngest politician, thinks Nigel Farage and his Eurosceptic colleagues should do less shouting and channel their energies into more proactive work. She gives PublicServiceEurope.com her unique perspective on the Brussels bubble
"Most people who come here want to do good things," says Amelia Andersdotter, the European Parliament's youngest MEP. "You have to somehow rely on people having good intentions. Very few in the Brussels bubble come here with the specific intention to be malicious". Very few, that is, other than the Eurosceptics and in particular the United Kingdom Independence Party. It seems UKIP collectively get under Andersdotter's skin. "I think they are ineffective," she says. "I think there are better things that they could do with their time. I would not structure my own work that way". Like all MEPs, she has seen UKIP leader Nigel Farage tear a strip off Europe's bigwigs in the parliament plenary. His tirades, made popular by online videos, have crossed the language divide and are increasingly watched in her home country, Andersdotter admits.
The 24-year-old Swede is a self-declared "pragmatic" politician who refuses to place herself anywhere on the traditional left-to-right political spectrum. She has come to Brussels to represent the Pirate Party, which focuses almost entirely on information sharing issues such as copyright and net neutrality. As a result, she does not have a position on the possible breakup of the eurozone.
Her complaint with regards to her Eurosceptic colleagues is not uncommon among MEPs who believe UKIP and its bedfellows are in Brussels to simply score points - leaving the actual work to everyone else. Andersdotter, who is young enough to be Farage's daughter, does however have a somewhat unique perspective on the European Union. Born in 1987, she is much too young to remember the Cold War. Imagine, therefore, what must go through her mind when Farage warbles on about his fears of Europe being dominated by Germany. He must seem ancient. "The European parliament is a very strange place," says Andersdotter over coffee with PublicServiceEurope.com in the Greenwich Tavern, near the Brussels stock exchange. "It takes a while before you realise the extent of history," she says. While many in Brussels are still digesting EU enlargement to 27 member states, Amelia has known nothing else.
"When I was living in Sweden, the institutions felt more impenetrable to me than they do now," she recalls. The EU's document management system seemed "unintuitive" at first, though she has since decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. "You can normally find what you're looking for," says the Swede, who uses Snus or Swedish snuff. While many MEPs outsource information technology to their younger assistants, Andersdotter clearly does it all herself. Unusually for parliamentarians, she has three assistants but answers her own emails.
Despite her tender age, Andersdotter reports no problems fitting in since arriving in 2010. Her older colleagues do not talk down to her, she says. Although, there are the inevitable "cultural gaps" triggered by age and nationality. "The parliament is a difficult place to be condescending in because even if you don't know who somebody is, they've usually had some type of very interesting achievement."
She rents a room from a friend in Molenbeek, an immigrant neighbourhood of Brussels best known for clashes between residents and police. The area gets a "bad rap", she says in her impeccable English. It would be nice if the local press picked up on Molenbeek's attractions - she mentions a guitar concert - rather than the crime. Like many of the youngsters who now throng through the EU's corridors of power, she has chosen not to bother learning French - officially still the EU's second lingua franca - because it "doesn't feel right". This has limited contact with her neighbours, she admits.
Other than the annoying Eurosceptics, there has in fact been only one other blot on the landscape. Andersdotter is coming to terms with the somewhat depressing fact that technical competence is largely irrelevant to the job of an MEP. One of the criticisms she has faced in Sweden is that she has not asked enough parliamentary questions of the European Commission. A complaint she finds bizarre. Would people be happier if she asked more questions even if they were stupid, she wonders? Her competence within her chosen field is self-evident; she can talk for hours about the commission's negotiating position in international trade talks on copyright - a stance she says "defies logic". But is that all that her constituents require of her?
Andersdotter came to Brussels believing that she had been given a mandate - more than 20,000 voted specifically for her - to work on the issues close to the Pirate Party's heart. For the moment, this is what she is sticking to. But you cannot help feeling that before long, she will be forced to engage in more pressing topics that have nothing to do with her pre-election manifesto. Given that she will "probably" stand for re-election in 2014, she could conceivably set herself up as the anti-Eurosceptic candidate. With her obvious intellect and fluency of thought, she might even challenge Farage to a live debate. They could call it the "clash of the generations". It would be one to watch, that is for sure.
Seven days - a week in the life of Loz Kaye
In the run up to conference season, the Pirate Party UK leader joins a protest in Manchester city centre, talks with international supporters, introduces a new approach to policy, and celebrates the success of a touring show for which he co-created the score