EUROPE AT A CROSSROADS: TAKE PART IN THE CONVERSATION TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION!

An interview with Malik Azmani, Member of Renew Europe’s delegation to the Conference on the Future of Europe and First Vice-President of the Group.

Malik Azmani (45) is a Dutch politician and former lawyer and civil servant from Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD), elected to the European Parliament in 2019. He is the First Vice President of the Renew Europe group, and has been a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. In 2021, he joined the parliament’s working group on Frontex, and his work focuses on the rule of law, borders and security.

· Q: Why did you decide to take part in the Conference Plenary?

A: I think in any organisation, it is important to take stock on a regular basis. To look at your organisation and see what works and what improvements could be made. The last time we had a real conversation about the functioning of the EU it resulted in the Treaty of Lisbon nearly 15 years ago. I think it’s time again to reflect on how things are going, what works and where we can make improvements. I’m very pleased that we will have this conversation together with European citizens. The reason for me to take part in the debate is simple. I see that the EU can be of great added value, and it has brought us more welfare and security, but it is still not succeeding on every level. I want to be part of the solution to make sure we can improve and deliver for our citizens.

· Q: Which topics will you be focusing on?

A: The reason I decided to stand for election during the European elections 2019 is that I was responsible as a Dutch MP for migration policy, but I realised quickly that the real work on this issue happens in Brussels. I strongly believe the EU needs a comprehensive and future-proof migration policy. Unfortunately, we’ve seen little movement on this file since 2016. That’s why Renew Europe published a migration vision paper on migration early last year, which I headed up together with my colleague Jan-Christoph Oetjen. It was good to see that when the Commission put forward new proposals last summer, it took on board several elements of this paper. But more needs to happen. We need to reopen the debate, join forces and find a sustainable solution to the migration challenge, and above all make sure we do not wait for the next migration crisis to happen.

· Q: How would you convince your constituents to take part?

A: I believe you need to take part in the conversation to be part of the solution. The great thing about this Conference is that these conversations can take place anywhere. So I’ll be organising events locally or online so that people can easily join and by inviting anyone who wants to join the discussion, I hope I can convince people to take part and share their ideas. I really want to hear what people think, what they’re worried about, what ideas they might have.

· Q: Renew Europe has initiated the idea of the Conference. What will be the Group’s priorities?

A: Renew believes it is time to show some courage and renew the way the EU works. We have many ideas on how to strengthen the role of European Parliament. Personally, I am very passionate about changing the way we organise debates. Currently we cannot really call what we do ‘debating’. We read out in plenary statements one by one. It is an insult to what our debates are meant to accomplish: sharpen arguments, hold the European Commission accountable and ensure sound policymaking. This needs to change and it is one of our priorities to make that happen.

· Q: Why is this milestone so important in EU’s history?

A: We find ourselves at a crossroads in Europe. There are many big questions we need to answer. How will we make the green transition happen and recover from this pandemic? How will we find an answer to upcoming global powers like China? Is Europe ready for the digital future? This conference is held at a time when we are looking for answers to these and other important questions and we are inviting anyone with ideas or possible answers to join our discussion. If we are successful, this is quite a unique process we are about to embark on.

· Q: To you, the Conference will be a success if… (finish the sentence)

A: Anyone who wants to take part in the discussion on the future of Europe finds an opportunity to join in and if as a result we manage to renew the way Europe works.