Interviews with MEPs
Interviews from Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and France
‘Many young people can actually get elected to the European parliament, our youngest member is 21’
Kim van Sparrentak, Netherlands – MEP
Here you can listen to interviews with eight MEPs from across Europe who were elected in the 2019 European parliament elections – from Ireland, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Listen to interviews with both male and female MEPs as we gain a deeper insight into what it is like to be an MEP, the challenges it brings, the opportunities and the hopes for the future.
Please click each video below to listen. The interviews are conducted with a range of MEPs. The Eight MEPs are Dennis de Jong, the Netherlands; Kim van Sparrentak, MEP, the Netherlands; Frances Fitzgerald, MEP, Ireland; Barry Andrews, MEP, Ireland; Salima Yenbou, MEP, France; Marie-Pierre Vedrenne, MEP, France; Len Dupont, MEP, Germany and Maria Noichl, MEP, Germany.
Left to right: Dennis de Jong, the Netherlands (former MEP); Kim van Sparrentak, MEP, the Netherlands; Frances Fitzgerald, MEP, Ireland; Barry Andrews, MEP, Ireland and Salima Yenbouou, MEP, France
Dennis de Jong is a Dutch politician of the Socialist Party. He was elected and re-elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and 2014 as his party’s top candidate, and he was the Leader of the Socialist Party in the European Parliament. As an MEP, he was part of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left. In 2019, he did not seek re-election to the parliament.
Kim van Sparrentak is a Dutch politician who is serving as a Member of the European Parliament for the GroenLinks political party in the Netherlands. In her interview, Kim van Sparrentak speaks in an inspiring and refreshing way about the diverse changes happening in the European parliament, highlighting the role of powerful women trailblazers and the need for inclusion and diversity into the future.
Frances Fitzgerald is a Fine Gael MEP for Dublin City and county in Ireland. She is a member of the ECON (Economic & Monetary Affairs) Committee, FEMM (Women’s Rights & Gender Equality) Committee and DEVE (Development) Committee. Frances also serves as the lead coordinator for the European People’s Party on FEMM.
Barry Andrews is a Fianna Fail MEP for Dublin City and county in Ireland. Prior to his election to the European Parliament he served as a TD from 2002- 2011. In 2012 he was appointed CEO of Goal. As CEO of GOAL, Ireland’s leading humanitarian agency, he led the charity’s response to the Syrian civil war, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and many other humanitarian crises.
Salima Yenbou is a French school administrator and politician who was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2019. She serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and on the Committee on Culture and Education. In addition to her committee assignments, she is part of the Parliament’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean and of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
Marie-Pierre Vedrenne is a French lawyer and politician who was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2019. She is the vice-chair of the Committee on International Trade and a member of the Committee on Petitions. In addition to her committee assignments, Vedrenne is part of the European Parliament Intergroup on Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas and the MEPs Against Cancer group.
Lena Düpont is a German politician who is serving as a Member of the European Parliament for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany political party since the 2019 European elections. She has since been serving on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. In addition to her committee assignments, she is part of the Parliament’s delegation to the EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee.
Maria Noichl is a German politician and member of the European Parliament representing Germany since July 2014. She is a member of the Social Democratic Party, part of the Party of European Socialists.
Human Rights for All
The following quotes are taken from the interview conducted with Kim van Sparrentak, MEP, the Netherlands.
‘ . . . we are trying to create a more social Europe and a more equal Europe, I work a lot in LGBT rights, women’s rights, gender equality and disability rights’.
‘I think here are many young women now that are making a lot of waves within the European parliament. One is my colleague Yanka . . the way she has made sure that women are being heard within the space of the parliament, that is just amazing’.
‘People are not listening to people like us . . I am going to stand there, I am going to tell my story . . show what we can do to make people’s voices heard that are not being heard at all in society’.
‘Gender mainstreaming is everywhere, within all the work we are doing’.
‘Simone Veil . . she was a real feminist . . and she became the president (of the first European parliament elected by universal suffrage), that is really cool . . . it was a good start but we didn’t manage to keep it up’.
MEP Interviews & Biographies
Dennis de Jong
Dennis de Jong is a Dutch politician of the Socialist Party. He was elected and re-elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and 2014 as his party’s top candidate, and he was the Leader of the Socialist Party in the European Parliament. As an MEP, he is part of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left. Born 22 May 1955, he studied law and political economy at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He obtained his degrees in 1976 and 1977 and then went to New York where he obtained his master’s degree in international relations at the New School for Social Research in 1979.
Following his studies, he started his career in 1979 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he worked as a diplomat at NATO. From 1983 to 1987, he worked at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in the International Relations and European Integration Department. From 1987 to 1993, he subsequently worked at the Ministry of Justice and Security, where he was responsible as head of department for the development of the immigration and refugee policy.
Because of his experience at the Ministry of Justice, he was seconded to the European Commission on behalf of the Netherlands. There he wrote the Commission report, which for a long time was the basis for proposals in the field of asylum and migration policy of the European Union. After his three years for the European Commission, he remained in Brussels, this time to work as a justice council at the Dutch Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union. In 1998 he returned to the Netherlands, where he was responsible for several major conferences at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Justice and again Foreign Affairs.
He also obtained his PhD in 2000 at the Maastricht University in the field of international human rights, in his last appointment between 2002 and 2009 he was the special human rights and good governance advisor on behalf of the Netherlands.
Dennis has been active in the Socialist Party (SP) since 2007, where he coordinated the working group on social globalization for several years. Since 2007, he has been part of the departmental board of the Rotterdam SP.
As stated above, he was elected and re-elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and 2014 as his party’s top candidate, and he was the leader of the Socialist Party in the European Parliament. As an MEP, he was part of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left. In 2019, he did not seek re-election to the parliament.
Kim van Sparrentak
Frances Fitzgerald is a Fine Gael MEP for Dublin City and County. She is a member of the ECON (Economic & Monetary Affairs) Committee, FEMM (Women’s Rights & Gender Equality) Committee and DEVE (Development) Committee. Frances also serves as the lead coordinator for the European People’s Party on FEMM.
Prior to her election to the European Parliament in the 2019 European Elections, Frances served as a Fine Gael Oireachtas parliamentarian for over 20 years. She served as a Fine Gael T.D. for the Dublin Mid-West constituency – having previously served as a Fine Gael T.D. in Dublin South East.
She most recently served as Tánaiste na hÉireann (2016-17), one of only four women to have ever held this position. She has also served as Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation (2017); Minister for Justice & Equality (2014-17) and was the State’s first Minister for Children & Youth Affairs (2011-14).
Frances has a clear record of delivering change and reform in Ireland stemming back to her education and early career.
Raised in Stillorgan, she was educated in Dominican College Sion Hill, Blackrock. She obtained a B.Soc.Sci from University College Dublin and a MSc. in Social Administration and Social Work from London School of Economics. She worked as a social worker and family therapist for ten years in Ballymun Child & Family Centre and in St. Ultan’s Children’s Hospital, St. James’ Hospital and the Mater Hospital. She worked in inner city communities in both Dublin and London. She also lectured in social work in Adult Education Courses and in Trinity College, Dublin.
Prior to her election to the Dáil, Frances served as Chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (1988-92) and Vice President of the European Women’s Lobby. She was also a founding member of the Women’s Environment Network – as it was known then. As Chair of the National Women’s Council she initiated and served on the second Commission on Women, chairing the Employment Sub-Committee.
She held the first conference in Ireland on ‘Women and Decision Making’ and championed the introduction of equality proofing mechanisms. Her trailblazing work on equality, her continued relentless progression of the principle of inclusivity and framework towards a rights-based approach earned her the title of European Woman of the Year in 1992.
Frances was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1992, representing the constituency of Dublin South-East. Before the abolition of dual mandates, she was elected as a Councillor for the Rathmines ward on Dublin City Council in 1999.
Prior to Fine Gael entering Government in 2011, she served as Leader of the Opposition in Seanad Éireann (2007-11). On her first day in the Dáil, Frances was appointed to the Fine Gael front bench as Spokesperson on Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. She went on to serve as Spokesperson on Defence; Social Community, Equality & Family Affairs; Social Welfare and later served as Spokesperson on Health and Children.
Frances has served on various Dáil and Seanad committees including Justice, Health, the Committee on the Constitution, the National and Economic Social Forum, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, Social Affairs and Health. Frances was also a member of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children and co-authored several Oireachtas Committee reports. She co-founded the first ever Cross Party Group on Mental Health and worked closely with Amnesty International to help break down the stigmas associated with mental health issues.
In 2011, Frances established the Department of Children & Youth Affairs. Frances also pioneered a number of ground-breaking reforms, including the comprehensive reform of the child protection and welfare system in Ireland. She enacted the Children and Family Relationships Act, which was the most comprehensive reform of family law since the foundation of the State. She oversaw the successful Children’s Referendum in 2012 and established Túsla, a dedicated Child and Family Agency. She introduced the Children First Legislation, putting guidelines on a statutory footing and led other major improvements on the promotion, regulation and enforcement of standards in early years and childcare settings. She also published the State’s first national policy framework for children and young people, titled Better Outcomes Brighter Futures.
In 2014, Frances was appointed Minister for Justice and Equality, where she enacted 27 pieces of legislation. The Sexual Offences Act radically reformed the laws regarding sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. It also criminalised the purchase of sexual services. She initiated the Domestic Violence Act which introduced the new offence of coercive control and improved the protections available to victims of domestic violence by introducing a new emergency barring order. She signed the closure of St. Patricks Institution in 2017 and also established the Charities Regulatory Authority. She also initiated and launched the National Strategy for Women and Girls.
Frances introduced legislation for the holding of the Marriage Equality referendum. On May 23rd 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to vote in a referendum to introduce an equal right to civil marriage for same-sex couples. In November 2015 Frances signed the Commencement Order for the Marriage Act 2015 which officially made marriage equality a legal reality.
She oversaw a comprehensive work programme – leading to the finalisation and enactment of the Legal Services Regulation Act, providing for unprecedented reform of the regulation and oversight of the legal professions and legal costs. Frances also led a programme of fundamental policing reforms, including a new independent Policing Authority to oversee the performance of An Garda Siochána and an expansion of the role and remit of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, she secured record funding in Budget 2018, established a Brexit Loan Scheme for small and medium sized businesses and worked to build new trading relationships and agreements abroad.
Frances sits on the board of Business in the Community Ireland. She has previously served on the boards of the Employment Equality Agency, Arthritis Ireland, The O’Reilly Theatre and the Breast Research Foundation in St. Vincent’s Hospital. Frances was also Vice Chair of Europa Donna, the European breast cancer campaign.
Barry has lived all his life in Dublin. He went to school in Blackrock College and studied History and Politics in UCD, graduating with a Masters in Modern History in 1990.
Over the last thirty years, Barry’s working life has been devoted to public service. His first job was teaching in Ballyfermot Senior College where he saw the power of education in bringing opportunity to the lives of young people. He went on to teach in Sutton Park School and Bruce College. While a teacher, he studied law part-time, qualifying as a barrister in 1997. As a lawyer, he specialised in child protection law, dealing with vulnerable children and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. Having always been attracted to the world of politics, in June 1999, he contested his first election when he ran for a seat on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. He topped the poll and soon progressed to national politics following his election to the Dáil in the 2002 general election.
As a TD, Barry was an early supporter for the legal recognition of the rights of same sex couples and was among those who argued in favour of gay marriage as a member of the All Party Committee on the Constitution in the early noughties. He was a regular contributor to debates on human rights issues at home and abroad and an ardent advocate for children’s and women’s rights.
In May 2008, Barry was appointed as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Within a year of his appointment and at the height of the financial crisis, he introduced the first ever free pre-school year, an innovation in early childhood education that has benefitted over 800,000 children in the last decade. He also led the government’s response to the biggest child protection crises in the history of the State.
Throughout his political career, Barry has always had a keen interest in international affairs and development issues and in 2012 he was appointed CEO of Goal. As CEO of GOAL, Ireland’s leading humanitarian agency, he led the charity’s response to the Syrian civil war, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and many other humanitarian crises. During his time as CEO, the work of GOAL grew substantially and annual turnover increased from €60m to €180m. In 2016 he resigned his position and went on to serve as Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs, Ireland’s leading think tank on European policy. Under his leadership, the IIEA has broadened its membership to reflect important sectors of Irish life and has provided a platform for a wide range of experts to inform public debate on Brexit. He set up the IIEA’s Brexit Hub. In February 2019, he was selected as the Fianna Fáil candidate for the Dublin constituency at the 2019 European Parliament election. He was elected in May 2019 receiving 14.1% of the 1st preference votes, but as the fourth candidate elected he did not take his seat until after the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
Maria Noichl is a German politician and member of the European Parliament representing Germany since July 2014. She is a member of the Social Democratic Party, part of the Party of European Socialists. Prior to entering politics Noichl was a teacher of nutrition and design.