Interview with MEP Chiara Gemma –

Interview with MEP Chiara Gemma

Mag 7, 2024
Roma, 7 mag. – Hello and welcome to a new interview of Askanews EU Verified Series. Our guest today is MEP Chiara Gemma member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) for the Ask@news EU Verified Series.

Good morning to you and thank you for this invitation, I am truly honored.

Q. Reflecting on these five years of the legislative term, what are the most significant goals achieved or the ones you are most proud of?

A. Yes, these have certainly been difficult years, with a complex legislative term due to the pandemic and the resulting disruption of all in-person work, as well as the recent conflicts we’re experiencing. However, my work has focused on a very specific category of people: individuals with disabilities. All my efforts and guiding principles have been directed toward these individuals, striving to have their voices heard here in Parliament.

My involvement in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, as well as my engagement within the Disability Intergroup and the European Disability Forum, aimed to represent the interests of these people, advocating for their right to independent living, employment inclusion, and non-discrimination in accordance with certain objectives. Thus, my work has concentrated on this direction, and this week, we are voting on the European Disability Card, which represents a historic victory, as it acknowledges the right to mobility and recognizes certain rights for individuals with disabilities across all 27 countries. This is a significant achievement that we have worked on over these years, and I am truly proud and delighted to have contributed to reaching this milestone.

Q. What do you think still needs to be done on this issue, and what do you think can be achieved in the next legislative term?

A. There’s still a lot to do because Europe provides directives—starting from the Strategy for Persons with Disabilities 2130. But this is not enough, as we then have to wait for the implementation of these European decisions in individual countries. You can imagine how this time lag is significantly detrimental to those waiting for the recognition of certain rights. I believe that much work remains to be done to ensure the right to employment for people with disabilities, as it remains a marginal issue, not respectful of the dignity of these individuals. While there have been supportive initiatives, they are not enough.

If I think about a specific category, namely boys and girls on the autism spectrum, I realize that we are still at the very beginning of achieving full recognition of these individuals in the workforce. We’ve had a resolution that aligned the rights of people with autism, but this has not yet been implemented or recognized in our country. So, there’s a long way to go, and this will be one of my key commitments to which I will dedicate the utmost attention.

Q. Changing the subject, you were a member of the BECA committee which was echoed by the approval of the NCD report in which there was a general recognition of the central role of prevention policies inspired by the principle of harm reduction. In particular, with regard to tobacco control, the role of alternatives to traditional tobacco in reducing health impacts on consumers was mentioned. Do you think that the next European Parliament will continue to express its support for enhancing these instruments in the field of prevention?

A. I definitely think so, because if we start from the scientific evidence, we cannot ignore that cigarette use is the leading cause of death. Therefore, our aim was partly to address the issue, but this will be an additional milestone that needs to be reached. As I mentioned, the scientific evidence indicates the effectiveness of all alternatives to cigarette smoking, so we cannot ignore it. Of course, this will be a slow process that will also have to contend with broader economic implications, but I am sure this is the way forward because the path has already been somewhat charted.

Q. In recent months, we’ve seen farmers marching throughout Europe. Your party strongly opposed the approval of the Nature Restoration Law. What can Parliament do to protect the farming community?

A. Parliament can put a stop to the ‘green’ absurdities from Europe. It is necessary to reconsider all policies that have been adopted, starting with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which will be subject to revision, and all those measures that have been taken under a supposed environmental protection, when in fact, we need to emphasize that the true guardians of the environment are the farmers. I have expressed great support for the farmers because in my region, they represent the primary social fabric with which we interact, and I believe they truly deserve all our respect and efforts to meet their needs. These needs involve rising prices, lack of recognition for their work, and more. This should be more frequently acknowledged, because when I think about how every day we sit down at our tables, we owe it to the work of those farmers, to the sweat of their hands, and to the labor that has not been properly recognized or valued during this legislative term. We have witnessed policies that have severely harmed our farmers, such as the recent Nature Restoration Law, which you mentioned. It is utterly absurd to think that a field can be replanted based on a butterfly index. This greatly penalizes our farmers, who truly get up at dawn and go to bed at sunset, spending their entire lives in the fields and providing us with the well-being we enjoy when we sit down to eat. Our government has done a lot, and the position it has taken is clear. Although the measures taken to support farmers are not enough, more work is needed in this direction. I hope the next legislative term will be able to change course, as farmers deserve this attention, and our commitment will focus on this.

Q. You are a university professor. In your opinion, what are the concerns of European university students that matter most to you, and what should the European Union prioritize?

A. Certainly, it’s about their ability to stay in their own cities and not have to seek work outside their local context. I believe that the experience of studying abroad is, of course, crucial and fundamental. We are European citizens, so the opportunity to go to other countries, strongly supported by all the programs that promote and support student mobility, is something exceptional that should ideally be extended and guaranteed to all students. Unfortunately, though, this experience can only be enjoyed by those who can afford it economically. That’s why I have repeatedly intervened in the Committee on Culture and Education to emphasize that this experience should be available to everyone, and to make it accessible, greater financial support is needed. While the Erasmus program received additional funding during this legislative term, it is not enough to guarantee this overseas experience to everyone.

However, at the same time, we must also ensure that our university students who graduate in our country have what I call the “right to stay”—the right to stay in their homeland and use their skills for the benefit of their region. We have young people with truly extraordinary skills, and it’s a real loss to see them leave due to brain drain. Guaranteeing the “right to stay” involves creating favorable conditions, including within the job market. This requires a stronger connection between the academic world and the business world, with educational offerings that reflect the needs of the region. Yet, I have to criticize: the academic world has limited dialogue with the production sector; more synergy would be highly desirable.

Along with the right to stay, there’s the “right to return.” Creating favorable conditions for these young people to return, bringing back a wealth of experience, provides added value to their local area based on the skills they acquired abroad. There’s a lot to do, but there’s also a lot to be done in terms of motivation. Our young people live in a period of existential sadness, so we adults should perhaps be much more positive in giving them the opportunity to live in a brighter present while imagining a more prosperous future for their aspirations.

Q. Final question. Looking ahead to the next legislative term, what are the goals you have in mind, the issues that matter most to you, and which ones do you intend to address?

A. Certainly, to keep putting people at the center. This has been the guiding thread of my work during this legislative term, and I intend to continue pursuing it. I believe that placing people at the center means respecting the dignity, needs, and challenges of every group. So, who should we focus on? Definitely young people, with whom I’ve been interacting for over thirty years, and who deserve all our attention and determination as we guide them toward their future. But also focusing on people with disabilities, the group I’ve worked with during this legislative term, who, as we mentioned earlier, need to be represented, as they are often voiceless. Being a voice for those without one in these institutions is a significant goal and, I might say, a major challenge.

But I also think of placing farmers at the center, as they are particularly dear to me because my region is filled with them, and I am here to represent their needs. Last but not least, I also consider women. Another topic I’ve worked on is violence against women with disabilities. Today, we will vote on the first European law on violence against women, showing that the European Union has worked in this direction over the past five years. The issue of women and violence is something that has exploded, and we must be ready to protect women and their personal stories in a clear and decisive way.

Thank you. The interview is over. We would like to thank Mrs. Chiara Gemma for being with us and for the time she dedicated to us.