Wim van de Camp is a Member of the European Parliament in the European People’s Party group. He was the head of the CDA delegation of the European People’s Party between 2009-2014. He was previously a member of the Dutch House of Representatives (3 June 1986 – 14 July 2009) where he was active in the fields of education and justice. Today, he chats about European Affairs, political communication via new technologies and how young people can get involved in politics.
Q. How do you believe the European Parliament attempts to involve the young Europeans and students with their activities?
A. In the European Parliament (EP) we do a lot to involve students in our work, to educate them about the European political process and to enthuse them about politics in general. There are several ways in which this is done: We invite many students to travel to Brussel (or Strasbourg) individually or with their schools, colleges and universities, to experience the EP and see everything with their own eyes. When visitors are here we show them around in the parliament and most important the plenary hall. Of course I (Wim van de Camp) also take time as a parliament member to talk to the students and discuss political subjects with them. For me this is one of the most important aspects of the visits! Meeting each other and discussing topics face to face and sharing my experience here.
Furthermore there is the ´Parlementarium´ you can visit. This is a museum about the EU with many interactive elements. For example there is a real life (smaller) copy of the plenary hall with the real desks and seats, where you can experience how it feels to be a European Parliament member yourself.
For students who would want a career in politics and really want to know how it is to work in the parliament, we also offer internships for a couple of months till half a year. And last but not least here is the Erasmus scholarship for students to study in another EU country for some time. Although this has nothing to do directly with the EP, it is very important for young people to learn about and understand other cultures and history within our common EU.
Q. Do you believe their approach is successful? Why (not)?
A. I do believe this approach is successful. The part of the visit where I get the chance to talk to the students is the most important part. I don´t only share my experiences and thoughts, but I also get the chance to learn from the students whom often have very bright and clever idea´s that I as a politician can learn from. Of course it is not always easy to travel to Brussels or Strasbourg, therefore I think it is important that we help and encourage students, schools, colleges and universities to get here.
Q. On what points could the EP do more to achieve getting more attention from (young) Europeans?
A. That is a difficult question, because it suggests we are not doing enough and I do not know, nor can accurately assess if this is the case. In any event it is important to educate people already at an early age in schools about the European Union. We need to keep trying to reach out to people as much as we can. That means better and smarter campaigns, closer to the people not only from Brussel but also from a local level. Europe is everywhere and effects our day to day life in many positive ways, people have to feel and become aware of this. That is the greatest challenge: bringing the big and far way city of Brussels and the sometimes abstract European project close to the European citizens where it belongs.
Q. What is your opinion on the current use of social media by the EP?
A. I know the EP uses a lot of social media. In the last couple of years many campaigns were done to reach out to young people and this is only increasing. Social media is a tool for strengthening communication and we have to work hard to keep increasing the output and increase the audience interested in the European project.
Q. What role does your own use of social media play in your day to day activities?
A. It plays a very big role. I use twitter a lot and have a personal website and Facebook page on which we often post new pictures and texts. Apart from that I also launched a special website about the EU that is called www.europaingewonetaal.nl (Europe in easy language). This is a website that explains the EU in easy language and is especially designed for young people, students and people who begin to learn and study about the EU.
Q. Is there a lot of influence from the party or delegation to what you post on your personal social media channels?
A. No. All the things I do on social media are my own initiative and done by myself and my team. Of course we use our social media to promote my personal and the party´s political views.
Q. What role does cooperation with other European institutions play in your day to day activities?
A. A very large role. Currently I – as representative of the parliament – am negotiating with the European Commission and the Council on several transport related issues. So we meet people/representatives from the Commission and the Council often in our daily work. Apart from that we also have a lot of contact with organisations in the field we work in. For me that is mostly the transport sector.
Q. Do you think the power balance between the EU institutions is right the way it is, or would you want to see changes made?
A. I think at this moment the Council sometimes has too much power that is used in the wrong way. A clear example of this is the refugee crises: The EP and the Commission are both convinced that immediate action is needed to solve the problems and are willing to take fast steps towards solving the crisis. But because the Council (the member states) cannot find a workable compromise among themselves a fast and effective solution for this important subject is very difficult.
Q. How do you believe the role of the European Parliament will change the coming decade?
A. I think that the role of the European Parliament will become larger. We can already see now that discussions in the parliament become more important and lead to national ministers coming to the parliament to discuss, debate and defend their national policies. This was recently the case with Hungary and Poland. Also the European Commission is more and more accountable to the EP for their decisions and policies. This also has to do with the fact that EU president Juncker has made the European Commission more political, also by organising his own election.
Q. How do you believe the policy process of the European Union will change the coming decades?
A. I think that the European Union will redefine its raison d ‘ être (reason for being). The EU will continually have to prove its democratic legitimacy. Part of this discussion will be that the decision making process in Europe will have to be more efficient and faster when it is needed (in the case of the refugee crisis for example), which means less power for national states on certain subjects. At the same time Europe will have to leave more subjects to the national states and avoid regulation when it is not needed. We can already see that under European Commission president Juncker less legislation is passed and more focus is given to subjects that directly support and improve the internal market.