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?
I think we managed to achieve quite some things, specifically also for young people. I know young people are quite worried about this feature on the labour market.
There's more and more precarious contracts. There's still a lot of unpaid internships, all these kinds of things. So within the constitutional affairs committee (AFCO) committee, we've managed to call for an end to unpaid internships.
And also when it comes to platform work, we now have quite a strong position on the parliament site to make sure that we focus on self employment and more workers rights. And these, of course, are specifically areas where young people work in.
Putting young people on the electoral list I think it's the way to enhance young representation in politics.
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?
I'm a millennial, so when I was elected, I was still living with flatmates — because I'm one of those people who was also suffering from the housing crisis and I was not able to find an affordable place of my own.
Having that experience and definitely not being the only one in my friends group, was something that was very important to me. I'm very happy I also managed to work on the housing crisis as a rapporteur and to discuss that from that perspective.
Have you encountered any obstacles or biases in the European Parliament based on your age?
I don't think [I’ve faced] any obstacle. When you're a young person in the European Parliament you have to work a little bit harder. Before people take everything you say seriously.
I think there's more of a reluctance, like let's wait and see what this young person is gonna say. You just need to work a bit harder and make sure you are very prepared. That you say everything the right way, so people listen to you and take you as seriously as an older male colleague.
I'm hardly ever recognised at the entrance of the parliament, or wherever. You hear people asking what's this intern doing here? But you get over it, and that’s why I am always wearing my badge.
In the European Parliament, there were around 20 people under-30 elected, and I was one of them. So the proportion of young policymakers, like very young politicians in the parliament, is very small so they just don't expect a very young person to walk into the room.
And I'm saying “very young”, because I am very young within the European Parliament, but I'm fully aware that in the real world I'm not that young. Young people look at me as if I am old.
That's always interesting because within this house, I'm considered extremely young, but in the rest of the outside world just a proper adult.
Because there are not many of us [young MEPS] we do find each other, so we hang out together and we try to change some things. If it is a bit old-fashioned and a bit boring, we tried to make it fun and a bit more interactive.
I think I'm one of the younger voices in the parliament that is also trying to change politics from dull play for old men who have had a career and now want to recount their opinion, to people who actually want to change things. It is really nice to be part of that.
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?
I think that the younger generation is better at thinking cross-sectoral, so the priorities I would have for the incoming legislative term is to make digitisation more sustainable and make sure that we take into account the climate crisis while working on digitalisation.
And the other one is algorithmic management, because we see a huge change in the labour market when it comes to what your rights are. They're very cross-sectoral. You have to know about algorithms, you have to know about labour rights. But I think those are the questions we really have to ask ourselves. We cannot work in silence, especially on the European level because we are really talking about what the future has in store for us.
I think when you're young you know you are not that hidebound.
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?
I think when you're young you know you are not that hidebound. You have not lived in this society for so many years that you're like, ‘well it works as it is’. You still have a much broader eye for change. You understand that things can be different and I think it is extremely important that we have people who have a strong belief in change and that don't accept that things are as they are. I think that it's extremely important to have young people in politics, because we need to change a lot of things to make the EU more sustainable and more social.
If you only have people in politics that are a bit more hesitant when it comes to really changing policies, then we're going to be stuck. So I think it's extremely important that we have people from every generation and especially people who believe that there's a need for change and that it is possible. I see that spirit very clearly especially within the youth movement. They do believe that another world is possible: another world that is more social and more equal, and that takes into account the climate crisis in every aspect.
To make Europe more sustainable, we need to make sure that we continue with the Green Deal. The Green Deal wasn't just a one off. I think that it is extremely crucial to really stay on top of this and to push even further, especially when it comes to the biodiversity crisis. When it comes to a more social Europe, I think it's very important that we steer businesses into a more socially-sustainable direction. I think that would be something we can really try to push for in the next legislative term.
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?
I really hope that there will be more young people in the European Parliament of course, because every generation has to be represented properly. We had a record [with 20 people under 30] but I hope that we will break it for the next term.
Putting young people on the electoral list I think it's the way to enhance young representation in politics. And I think that's also something that you see happening more and more. That’s exciting.
As young politicians it is important to show that you can be a politician, as a young person. We have to show that this is also a place where young people are welcomed and are able to thrive. And I think that's more about sending a message and structural change.
The most important files van Sparrentak worked on for the last legislative term 2019-2023: