Looking back at the last legislative term, what were the most significant achievements or challenges you faced as a young member of the European Parliament?
Getting elected was already such a milestone, at first I did not believe I had anything left to achieve. It goes without saying, however, that many challenges and achievements have followed after that, but I still like to think about it as the most symbolic one.
Being a young politician comes with many challenges — that will not be a surprise to anyone, but if I had to look back on these past years, I would say learning how to advocate for myself and overcoming the ‘impostor feeling’, especially as a young woman. I have had the privilege of being encouraged from a young age by my loved ones, but I have also had society tell me not to be loud, to just accept and be grateful, even if I am not in agreement. This has stuck with me and many other women, especially younger women that are new to these leadership positions. Overcoming these thoughts, and learning how to grow apart from them has both been an enormous challenge and an achievement, one that I am very proud of. Now I get to encourage other young people, other young women like me. I get to tell them their voices are important, I get to tell them they are valued and worth it. And that is a great feeling.
How do you think your age and generational perspective have influenced your work and decision-making in the European Parliament? Can you provide examples of issues where your perspective differed from older colleagues?
Greatly. There is a reason all institutions call for the involvement of the youth in policymaking. Who can explain better the concerns and goals of the youth than young people?
However, involving young people in decision-making processes often only entails consultation. As a young politician, I do not just participate in a consultation process, I have a vote and I have a stake. I fight the battles from the inside, I may not always succeed, but I know I am an extra asset to the youth organisations, and a point of connection. There is just a deeper understanding of the challenges when you and your close ones are also facing them, and I believe that is my strongest asset. Bringing to the table our concerns, from our perspective, not just nourished by my own personal experiences, but by other young voices that reach out to me sharing concerns.
I believe this materialises very clearly with the issue of banning unpaid internships. I do not believe there is a single young person out there that will tell you unpaid internships are not an exploitative practice. We accept them - at times - out of need, but even in the conclusions of the Conference of the Future of Europe, where many young organisations participated, the issue of banning unpaid internships was included. And yet, I have not been able to introduce this in any of the reports I have handled during the legislative term. Not because I have not arduously tried to, this has been my one goal since I was elected, but because I face the opposition of older peers who are clearly stuck in their conservative, outdated ways and just do not understand.
Have you encountered any obstacles or biases in the European Parliament based on your age?
I definitely have. As I said earlier, one of my biggest achievements during this period of my life has been learning to advocate for myself. I have had to out of need. I have had to learn how to use my voice, I have had to learn my worth. But it is not unoften that people will try to dismiss you or disregard you because you may not be as powerful or confident as another older peer, who may very well have a similar work experience, but perhaps more life experience.
I had to identify myself in the MEPs bar at the beginning of the legislative term, several times, because I just would not be let in, “I looked too young” to be an MEP.
I believe that - at times - I have been looked down at. I am fortunate, however, to have people in my corner that not only know my worth, but also believe in the experience that us young people can bring to the table. They have taught me how to overcome any challenges I might have faced.
Any time I have the chance, I like to explain this anecdote, because I believe it is very small but very symbolic. But I had to identify myself in the MEPs bar at the beginning of the legislative term, several times, because I just would not be let in, “I looked too young” to be an MEP. Like I said, it is a small but yet symbolic way of saying “you do not belong here”.
What are your expectations and priorities for the upcoming legislative term in the European Parliament? Are there specific issues or policies that you believe require urgent attention, especially from a youth perspective?
From a youth perspective, I think there are several urgent issues of particular concern for the upcoming legislative term.
For many young people, the journey to becoming independent is not easy. Younger generations are much more likely to experience poor working conditions, unemployment and poverty. That is why there is an urgent need to both improve the quality of traineeships and address the issue of traineeships replacing entry-level jobs, which lead to social dumping and open the spiral of precarity. How? With a Directive on Quality Traineeships, that puts an end to these exploitative practices across Europe.
Lack of affordable housing is already a problem in the EU. As a young socialist MEP, there are few things more important to me than claiming the right to decent housing. The European Union must give solutions to young people with a European decent housing strategy that makes public, affordable and quality social housing a priority.
And directly linked to the financial instability and the uncertainty about the future, including the impact of climate change, we cannot forget about the so-called silent pandemic: mental health. Recognising and addressing the mental health challenges faced by young people, intensified by the pandemic, should be a priority. Policies aimed at reducing stigma, improving access to mental health services, and promoting well-being must be high on our agenda.
There is a need to make political parties aware of the asset young politicians are.
In light of recent youth-led movements and activism across Europe, such as climate strikes and social justice movements, how do you see the role of young MEPs in amplifying these concerns and translating them into policy actions at the European level?
As you rightly pointed out, young people have led many important movements in the last years, such as Fridays for Future to fight against climate emergency or the Ban Unpaid Internships campaign to fight for decent working conditions.
And this is important to remember. We always talk about how important it is getting young people engaged in the policymaking process to understand their perspectives, concerns and priorities. The European Union does promote initiatives to bring young people together, namely the CoFoE or the European Youth Event, which takes place annually.
Unfortunately, the number of young MEPs in the parliament is still very low. There is a need to make political parties aware of the asset young politicians are in order to represent the needs and especially the diversity of our society when it comes to young people. Young people must be involved in policy discussions without being underestimated or judged.
How do you see the overall representation of young people in the European Parliament? What reforms or changes would you advocate for to enhance the representation and voice of young MEPs in the future?
As I said in my previous answer, the overall representation of young people in the European Parliament is clearly lacking. This under-representation hampers the diversity of perspectives and fresh ideas that could contribute to effective policymaking and addressing the particular challenges faced by today’s youth.
Therefore, I think there is room for improvement in the way we address the under-representation of young voices, not only at European level, but also at national or regional one. For instance, initiatives focused on mentorship and closing age-related restrictions would be interesting to explore, but I believe that raising awareness on the relevant role of young politicians is key to ensuring young people’s voices in the institutional sphere are represented in the years to come.
The most important files Homs Ginel worked on for the last legislative term 2019-2023:
Quality traineeships in the Union
Guidelines for the employment policies of the member states 2022
EU rules on the free movements of workers and services: intra-EU labour mobility as a tool to match labour market needs and skills
Empowering European youth: post-pandemic employment and social recovery
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