Anna Simbartlová is a PhD Candidate of Charles University in Prague in International Relations. Through her affiliation to the Department of European Studies, she is getting an opportunity to put her interests into practice in everyday life, such as is working on the project You&EU. Academically, she focuses on the migration problematic in Europe, but personally, she is enthusiastic for the zero waste movement, too, which changed her life fundamentally. In her free time, she conquers rocks with her partner and climbing friends — and does not give up collecting garbage around all the time.
Where does your interest in policy, politics and especially the elections to the European Parliament come from? What is your main motivation to engage yourself?
As a graduate of European studies, I can feel the big gap between the EU and ordinary citizens. And that is exactly what motivated my colleagues from the Europaeum PhD Scholars Programme and me to launch the social media campaign You&EU. We want to show people how the EU impacts their life and how they can influence it; to show the important connection between an ordinary European citizen and European institutions. And as a practical example, we aim for the elections to the European Parliament 2019 where people can have their say in how the EU will impact their life in the next 5 years. But that is only the beginning of a variety of possibilities how people can engage which follow the EP elections.
What are your concrete suggestions regarding climate change policy at EU level towards candidates to the European Parliament? What would a candidate need to promise you to make you vote for her/his party?
I am very interested in the zero waste movement. I am trying to run my household as much zero waste as possible. Right now, I have to carry out our small kitchen bin — after 5 months. Therefore, candidates aiming at any proposals about a better waste management really interest me. I am truly happy for the new directive that is under successful final negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU regarding the ban on certain types of single-use plastics (SUP). But this should be only the beginning — we have to aim at preventing the creation of waste (SUP as well as general one) that ends up in the landfill and seas. To name examples, supporting so called tap drugstores or zero waste food corners, where you fill products in your own package, in ordinary supermarkets or developing and enabling any type of returnable packaging should be one way — out of many. And the European Union is exactly the power that the global community needs in this regard. If the EU doesn’t start the change, who else? We need to significantly reduce waste not only in the consumer life, but mainly in the industrial business, such as food industry or construction work, and at the very beginning of the production chain. And in addition — each of us have to start in his/her personal life. It is feasible — where is the will, there is the way.
What are the “hot” topics regarding climate change in your country? How do they potentially affect the upcoming Elections?
The biggest issue in my country, Czechia, is the coal. The importance of coal is sensible in many areas — on the national level regarding the energy policies that prefers the use of coal rather than supporting alternatives; subsequently in the business with electricity, ending in the individual households, using (sometimes overusing) this electricity run from coal or even using the coal directly in private household heaters. I don’t think that this issue will affect a lot the upcoming elections as the majority of Czech people do not engage in the energy responsibility (except younger generation around 30 years or less, but we can’t generalise categorically). Another very specifically Czech hot topic regarding climate change is the influence of the Czech ex-president Václav Klaus who claim that there is no climate change caused by humans. I see a connection between his approach and the general approach of Czechs towards the energetic as well as climate responsibility (but which was the first?). However, not to be too much pessimistic, the draughts coming in the last year and months are waking people up, Czechs are starting to debate the approach to agriculture in Czechia, which is partly connected as a cause of the current draughts as well, and subsequently to more sustainable alternatives to a healthier life. Which results into a better approach to climate protection as a side effect. A healthier lifestyle and thoughtful care of nature that is physically around us, these are the issues that Czechs would attire more than general claims about improving environmental policies.
What should young people keep in mind while making their decision in the election to the European Parliament?
I think that people don’t realise that they do elect not only their personal political representative for the European level, but that through that vote, they influence the composition of the next Commission. People just are not aware that the political party they vote for on the national level is a part of a European political party which has a candidate for the President of the European Commission — who subsequently build his/her team of Commissioners. We compare it to national elections — candidate for a Prime Minister is determined by the results of the elections and subsequently comes up with his/her list of ministers. But on the European level. Therefore, consider the personal connection to your representative you vote for as well as do not forget the broader political impact your decision causes at the European level.
In your opinion, is giving a vote enough?
Definitely! It is the start step of a change — as we can see with the rise of extreme right in the European as well as national parliaments. People who were not satisfied with the current situation did vote for a change — and I think they largely succeeded, on both levels! The same applies for any other political spectrum. Go vote and have your say. And if interested, engage more through personally contacting your MEPs, representatives in the Council of the EU (Corepers) or directly the representatives of the relevant Directorate (understand as Ministry) of the European Commission. You can do all this on your national level — and you can do it on the European as well, in your native language. Don’t be shy, speak out!
Thank you for the interview!