In an interview with FREE, Ms Bresso spoke about the successes and prioritiser of the European Parliament as the end of its first year approaches, her hopes for the RUMRA Intergroup and the challenges facing rural areas. She also discusses specifically the role rural areas have to play in the decarbonisation of Europe.
Q: The European Parliament is almost a year in place. What are the main achievements or disappointments of the past year?
A: Each parliament needs time to reach cruising speed in its daily work. Despite that, this legislative term has already started with some positive elements like, for example, the successful pressure of the European Parliament on the Member States to support the “Spitzenkandidat” (the top candidate of each European Parties running for the European election) to be nominated as President of the European Commission. Moreover, since the announcement of the Investment Plan for Europe (the “Juncker Plan”), the European Parliament has played a very important role in improving this Plan for a better, more sustainable and more equal growth in the European Union. These are already big steps for the European Parliament, for democracy in the European Union, for its economy and for the respect of fundamental rights. Many other topics are discussed in a very positive and constructive way by the Parliament, like the Transatlantic Investment Partnership on which we are about to find a good compromise to be supported by a vast majority in the EP, but also able to protect the European citizens – especially their social, cultural and working rights – and allow a sustainable and fair growth in the EU. Finally, the improved relationship between the High Representative Mogherini and the EP with a solid dialogue in foreign policy is something very important considering the role that the EP can play in this issues.
Q: What are the main priorities the European Parliament should focus in the coming years?
A: We have three priorities for the present legislative period. The first one is to bring the European economy back on solid ground and the Investment Plan presented by President Juncker is a good starting point. But Europe will need eventually a clarification on what we exactly want in terms of political Union: the economy needs confidence and resolving the political question will help solving most of the economic problems. The second priority is represented by the migration and the common foreign policy. The Parliament doesn’t have the direct competence for acting on the migratory issue or on the common foreign policy. Nevertheless, we have to act resolutely and further engage the Member States to present ambitious responses to these problems and this especially on the topic of immigration where the European Parliament stands for a quick and strong reaction after the tragic events which are still taking place at our borders. The third priority is obviously the creation of an Energy Union. This Union is on the one hand a way to create growth and solve most of the social and migratory challenges we are facing and on the other hand an absolute necessity regarding the future energy needs of the European Union. Global warming and the end of the fossil energy supply require from us concrete action which will have to be led in due respect of the social and ecological environment and of the principle of decentralization of the energy supply to the local territories.
Q: In December 2014, the RUMRA Intergroup was created. Why did you decide to help rural, mountainous and remote areas become more represented in the European Parliament?
A: The idea behind the Intergroup is that every citizen in the EU has the same right to live in a safe and healthy environment, with equal opportunities in terms of education and job, with the adequate level of social protection and economic development. Too often rural, mountainous and remote areas have been neglected these opportunities, and we are firmly committed to help change that with the work of our Intergroup. The main tool currently available is the Cohesion Policy and we want to make sure that its future will include more effectively the needs of rural, mountainous and remote areas: not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because the positive effects of an improved and concrete territorial cohesion will be of benefit for the entire EU.
The establishment of the RUMRA Intergroup was a great success, we started to work in this direction since the beginning of the new term: with the support of FREE and other association like RED and Euromontana, but also with a very large political support from different political groups in the European Parliament. We welcome the contribution of any stakeholder or player interested in these issues.
Q: As a Chair of the Working Group on Climate Change and Energy, do you think rural areas have an important role to play in the decarbonisation of Europe?
A: Rural, mountainous and remote areas have been perceived in the past by some as problems. It is true that these areas present particular challenges, however I am convinced that with the right approach these challenges can be transformed in huge opportunities for the entire European Union. In terms of renewable energy production, these areas will be vital for the achievements of the Europe 2020 objectives: mountain and rural areas presents unique environments where solar, geothermic, wind and biomass energy can be produced in very efficient ways, therefore yes, I am convinced that the way for a decarbonised Europe will pass inevitably through a new approach towards these territories.
Q: How do you think the EU could help rural areas improve their energy profile?
A: By helping them to exploit better their potential. These areas are naturally equipped to become the centre for the EU production of renewable energy, but their capabilities are today not fully exploited. Take the mountains and remote islands for wind and solar energy, or rural areas for biomass, the EU should allow those areas to use their environmental and climatic conditions to boost renewable energy in Europe. This is a big chance for the concerned territories, for their development and inclusion into the EU economic context, but also a chance for the EU as a whole.
Q: What goals do you have for the RUMRA intergroup?
A: The Intergroup should work in three different directions: first, it has to be the place where the issues concerning these areas will find space for discussion with the EU institutions, as a forum of debate; secondly, we really need to work on the legislative role of the European Parliament in order to influence the legislation process so that the voice of mountains, remote and rural areas will be heard and taken into consideration; but also, we will have to be help the EU understand the incredible potentials of those areas. I am convinced that with the help of different political groups in the EP and also with the support of different associations the work ahead will be very interesting and very much useful for the areas we will try to represent at our best.