Interview with MEP Picierno –

Interview with MEP Picierno

Giu 5, 2024
Roma, 5 giu. – Guest of this episode of Askanews EU Verified Series is the Vice-President of the European Parliament, MEP Pina Picierno of the Socialists and Democrats Group. Good morning Mrs Picierno, thank you for being with us today.

Good morning to you and thank you.

Q. During this legislature, you have held a very prestigious role. Looking back over these five years, what are the most significant goals you have achieved or which ones are you most proud of?

Certainly, the achievement of having worked towards a Europe closer to the lives of its people, following the guidance, political vision, and teachings of a great Italian and Europeanist named David Sassoli. I never stop reminding that David, during the most challenging times for our continent, truly made the European Parliament the home of European citizens. Let us recall that he even opened the European Parliament to the most vulnerable and those in need during the Covid crisis. We have worked to rebuild Europe, I would say, based on an important concept found in the Schumann Declaration, which is the idea of a Europe of solidarity. The idea of a Europe that is present and close to the struggles and daily lives of its people, this seems to me the most important thing, beyond the directives and the many things we have built. But the most ambitious political goal we have achieved, I believe, is precisely this.

Q. You were a shadow rapporteur for the S&D on the proposed directive of the European Parliament and the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence. How do you assess the results achieved?

In other words, The final text approved is absolutely insufficient, so much so that I did not vote for it. I had proposed a text very different from what emerged from the final phase of the Trilogue. The text approved by the Parliament was a progressive one that would have truly changed the lives of women victims of violence. Unfortunately, what came out of the interinstitutional negotiation—you know that in Europe there is no legislative centrality of the Parliament, so everything happens through an interinstitutional negotiation, thus involving national governments and the Council—essentially nullified the work we did in Parliament, together with all the other shadow rapporteurs. Therefore, the final text is absolutely unsatisfactory for me, to the extent that I did not vote for it, nor did I participate in the final press conference. Sometimes, one must know how to say no to make progress for the future. And the commitment I make for the next legislature is precisely to start again from the text I worked on for over two years in Parliament.

(Long interruption) to protect them from this social scourge that is gender-based violence. There is still much work to be done on gender equality as well. What direction do you hope for in this regard?

Q. In this case as well, as you mentioned, there is still a lot to be done and worked on. We have had an intense term, during which many important directives were approved and significant steps were taken, but they are still completely insufficient. Women make up half of the world’s population; they have the right and duty to be in places where decisions are made on an equal footing. It is not yet the case, and until women are present equally and this gap is closed—which exists from every point of view, including pay, as you know—not only are women not paid equally for the same work as men, but there is also a general problem of inequalities that still exist in all sectors and every aspect of daily life. Therefore, the path ahead of us is still very long but necessary.

Q. In Parliament, there is currently a discussion about the possibility of establishing a permanent Health Committee. This highlights a growing focus on health issues in Europe. Do you believe that the right approach could be to set guidelines based on scientific evidence?

I think it is necessary, first of all, to establish this Commission because the Covid pandemic has taught us so. It’s quite unbelievable that there isn’t a specific Commission in Europe dedicated to health issues. Covid has demonstrated how indispensable this is. There’s an ongoing scientific debate about the possibility of needing to equip ourselves adequately to combat other pandemics in the future. In short, the existence of a Commission specifically focused on health is truly crucial. I believe we will understand together how to proceed, and we will do so in the next legislative term.

Q. Despite formal exercises in soliciting opinions from citizens and experts on smoking, such as the Public Consultation on the Tobacco Product Directive, which received nearly 18,000 responses last year, mostly in favor of the role that new categories of products can play in helping smokers quit, and despite the favorable position of the European Parliament expressed in the recent Ncd Report, the Commission seems to have already adopted a biased position on reduced-risk products. What are your thoughts on this, and what position do you believe the next European Parliament will adopt on the issue?

I was saying that it’s a bit difficult (can you hear me) to predict what the position of the next Parliament will be. We’ll have to see what happens with the elections, what majorities will prevail. So, I’m not able to predict the position of the next Parliament, obviously. What I can say today is that we need to avoid, at least I have always fought for this, even during these years, to avoid ideological positions. Too often, we have seen, regarding these issues, preconceived and somewhat ideological positions. I believe that it is necessary, instead, to carefully follow the scientific debate, but then also leave the citizens the possibility to choose without conditioning them in their choices. For example, we had the Nutri-Score: there was a debate within the European Parliament, it’s a different issue. We had a very ideological debate about the Nutri-Score, which is this (interruption) traffic light system placed on product labels in supermarkets to indicate their healthiness. I am always cautious about the idea that we should not condition the consumer because otherwise, it becomes conditioning. For the Nutri-Score, just as an example, fried chips were considered healthy products and potentially harmful products, olive oil. So you understand very well that when the debate becomes somewhat ideological, we risk not doing a favor to citizens as consumers who need to be informed. This is absolutely necessary to properly inform them about any potential risks. But then, in my opinion, it is important to let them choose freely. We should never, so to speak, turn the institutions into a sort of ethical state that arrogates the right to decide for us. In short, we are in a liberal democracy, it’s always good to remember that.

Q. Changing the subject, we have seen farmers’ protests everywhere in Europe. Do you believe that after these protests, the choices stemming from the Green Deal will experience a slowdown or will they continue with the same ambitions?

I believe that they should continue with the same ambitions, but under one condition: they need to be financially supported. We must not make the mistake of imagining that the transitions and objectives we have collectively set are the goals of only a few political forces. These objectives have been clearly and decisively set by the President of the Commission and the entire majority (interruption) that has managed the Commission and the Parliament in recent years. So, the objectives remain and (interruption) they must be ambitious. They need to be supported by significant public investment (interruption), meaning funding is required. The risk is that they may stagnate and become hostile to the transition objectives, which are necessary to achieve, as I mentioned earlier.

Q. Changing the subject, we have seen farmers’ protests everywhere in Europe. Do you believe that after these protests, the decisions stemming from the Green Deal will undergo a slowdown or will they continue with the same ambitions?

As I was saying, the goals of the transition must remain absolutely unchanged because they are necessary. Achieving the objectives of the Green Deal and the ecological transition is fundamental, and those targets, those objectives, those targets that we have set together through a composite and articulated majority cannot be called into question. But the President of the Commission herself has repeatedly emphasized the need to achieve these goals, so there is an awareness among all the Europeanist forces that it is necessary to achieve those targets. The point is, we must try to achieve those targets by adding to that goal the possibility and awareness that funding is needed. Citizens cannot bear the cost of transitions because otherwise, this leads to an inevitable closure of citizens towards the objectives set for them. If, instead, transitions become a common challenge, a collective challenge, and also a collective opportunity to achieve those necessary changes that must be financially supported, I believe they will be realized effectively and also more quickly.

Q. Recently, you made an appeal to vote to students. What are the concerns of young Europeans that are closest to your heart, and to which the European Union should give priority?

I believe that young Europeans are certainly the most, let’s say, genuinely (interruption) European-minded part of the population, and they feel both Italian and European at the same time. So, they are particularly sensitive to all the challenges posed by our political union. I tell them to be vigilant, to be active, to participate. Because voting is the most precious tool we have to shape the choices of the present and the future. There are no others, no equally powerful tools even to defend our democracies at a time when democracies are also challenged by illiberal regimes. So I say to the young people, go out and vote, participate, don’t let others decide for your future. And determine the choices that, so to speak, concern your life in the present and the future.

The interview is over. We thank the Vice President of the European Parliament, MEP Pina Picierno, for the time and contribution she has dedicated to us. Thank you.

Thank you.