Abdul Turay, photo by Ave Maria Mõistlik, wikimedia commons
One of the beautiful things about the European Union, is that a citizen from one EU country can be elected in local government of another, or as a Member of European Parliament. Abdul Turay, originally from the UK, is one example of that. He’s an elected member of the Tallinn city council in Estonia, and now he’s hoping to be elected for the European Parliament, also for Estonia. He was generous to answer the 5 ‘How will you?’ questions I distilled from the European Portrait series earlier.
How will you tackle youth unemployment?
I think youth unemployment should be tackled primarily at a local level and at a national level, before the European wide level. Europe was founded on the principle of subsidiarity, meaning matters should be resolved as far as possible locally. To give an example it is much harder to get a job as a hairdresser in France than it is in the UK because of the paperwork required.
Getting rid of this paperwork is the job of local and national governments in the first instance.
Of course open borders and freedom of travel within Europe means that a young person can move from one part of Europe to another to get a job. Again: it is about educating young people, also about the possibilities of Europe.
How will you stimulate and facilitate entrepreneurship?
This is a tricky issue, because often attempts to stimulate entrepreneurship by throwing money at the problem has led to carpetbaggers moving into a country just to exploit the access to European Union grants. This is what we have seen in Estonia with the all start-up craze.
The EU already spends a lot of money on entrepreneurship, but most of it ends up in the hands of these carpetbaggers.
The best way to stimulate entrepreneurship is to do it at a grassroots level. This must go hand in hand with regional development.
Practically speaking this means no money for high tech start ups, (that should come from venture capital, not EU grants) and more money for small local run businesses in the countryside and small towns, such as handicraft shops, bed and breakfasts, small tourism outlets, small producers of niche goods. Grants should be spent on training programmes and local information to teach local people how to run businesses.
Estonia needs infrastructure development, it needs a large fully functional conference centre.
How will you bridge the gap between voters and MEPs?
Simple, cut MEP salaries. Prior to 2009 MEPs were paid at the same rate as MPs in their home countries.
The current salary system was set up in 2009 because it was regarded that it was unfair that MEPs from different countries were earning less for doing the same job. All it has done is lead to charges that MEPs are corrupt and greedy.
If I were elected I would campaign for MEP salaries to be cut to the median salary for an MP in Europe. Furthermore MEP expenses should be properly audited so that everybody can see how much MEPs are actually spending on their expenses and what the money is spent on.
If MEPs voluntarily reduced their salaries and agree to audit their expenses, voters faith them will be restored.
How will you make the EU more democratic, transparent and accountable?
See my answer above. This question is too complex to answer in one paragraph. We can start by cutting MEP salaries.
How will you address climate change and its disastrous effects on our children’s planet?
I don’t buy the argument that cutting CO2 emission by 25 percent or 40 percent will effect climate change. These are just numbers. What we need is to switch from fossil fuels to another energy source entirely and that means investment into research. There are big corporations that have a stake in keeping the current system as it is, this should be resisted. EU grants should be spent on research that forces oil and gas companies to change their business model or go out of business.
We mustn’t forget the human dimension. If pensioners are getting higher bills because of CO2 quotas, that is a bad outcome.
If you want to know more about EP2014 candidate Abdul Turay from Estonia, visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter.