< SWITCH ME >

27 countries, 785 democratic representatives, 500 million citizens. The European Parliament is a demanding workplace where intercultural communication takes on new dimensions. In search of the qualities you need to get there, E&M columnist Anna Rupp asked an experienced member of the European parliament, Michael Cramer, for his personal experience and advice. Voilà: some points you should consider...

Photo:Anna Peters, www.youthphotos.eu
It's team work!

1. Be a generalist - or be a specialist.

Europe needs both: People who invent general principles for the governance of Europe, who find new ways ahead and remind others of the main aims of our common political endeavours. And on the other hand, there must be specialists for such different issues as economy, ecology, science, law, traffic, health, family and others.

Michael Cramer is a deputy for the Greens in the European Parliament. He describes Daniel Cohn-Bendit as a European generalist. Cohn-Bendit advises and works in many fields, following his basic principle of the general validity of human rights. Cramer himself is a specialist in traffic and ecology questions:  "That's what I was nominated for."

2. Be independent. Have a profession before going into professional politics.

Keep your personal independence. It's best to have another profession apart from being a politician. You can only keep your ideological freedom if politics isn't your only option for earning money. So finish your studies, get your degree and gain some practical experience in your job: as a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist or any other independent professional. Keep in mind that you shall never give up your opinion for money.

3. Be open. Listen to what others say. Be curious.

What is important in everyday life as well as in national politics, is essential on the European stage. Here, curiosity is one of the first virtues: you should be curious about what others think, how they think and why they think like that. Therefore, you have to listen carefully to what others say. It would help to understand their languages, but as there's a very good structure of interpreting services, it's not the main point here. But you should keep your mind open to other cultural backgrounds and their influences on political aims and dreams.

4. Be aware of history.

The truest and strongest reason for the existence of the European Union is certainly the maintenance of friendship between peoples and the avoidance of war. Keeping in mind the cruel history of our last century and the long path we have travelled in order to arrive in a more peaceful chapter, is essential to understand the value of the common struggle for a better world.

5. Be sensitive. Be emotionally intelligent.

As each country has had its own complicated history and its personal complications, its own grievances but also its own successes, a European politician should be aware of these deeply located sensitivities. You cannot have an in-depth knowledge of all these tiny differences, so you have to learn to feel them. Evolving and developing your emotional intelligence, you will hurt fewer people's feelings and you will achieve more by finding the right form of European communication.

6. Practise your rhetoric. You only have 2 minutes to talk!

Speech time is very short in the European parliament as there are 785 deputies who have to be heard. Two minutes is often the maximum time you'll have for your topic. So try to be a modern Cicero. O tempora, o mores!

7. Learn about national politics.

Go to school in your home national politics. You will learn a lot about how people think and where sensibilities are. To be Bavarian is also to be European. And vice versa.

8. Find strong arguments. You have to mobilise majorities.

As party policy is less important in Strasbourg, you have to create your own party by having convincing arguments. If you work hard at your subject, if you're well informed and able to stand up for your opinion and aims, you'll even be able to build alliances with your political adversaries. So you should also learn to make compromises and be free from prejudices.

9. Keep your ideals.

You won't just be more credible and honest, but also more successful if you're sure of your own ideals. Politics is often quite pragmatic and orientated towards short-term solutions for urgent problems. But just the process of striving for higher objectives will really help to overcome crises and construct lasting foundations for European policy.

10. Dream Europe.

Be a visionary! Dream a better European future! And then - make it reality!


Cover photo: Christopher Hepburn / www.youthphotos.eu

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