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#EP2019: Interview with Anna Simbartlová from You&EU

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!

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