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?
One of the most significant challenges is constantly being confronted with decision-makers that seem to want to uphold the status quo and values of past decades — while not realising that everyday life for the majority of people is changing and that the past is the past.
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?
Naturally, my perspective is shaped by my generation. There is a change in values within the generations. From my experience, younger people tend to put higher value on quality time with their friends, family, having a work-life balance, while older generations tend to focus more on providing, and earning money. Consequently, this change is reflected in the decision-making, particularly regarding the question of what is most important to the European people. However, the debates resulting from these differences increase the understanding of each other’s positions and thus might improve the policymaking. When talking about creating jobs for example, we have different perspectives. We do not just look for quantity regarding jobs, but focus more and more on quality. Especially the creation of high-quality jobs that allow a good work-life balance, provide a social net surrounding the jobs, good working conditions etc.
For me as a young MEP it is of immense importance to try to represent this generational struggle and go into an exchange with older colleagues to make them understand where we are coming from and to subsequently improve the situation for everyone.
Have you encountered any obstacles or biases in the European Parliament based on your age?
In the perception of many people, MEPs must be old, white and male. While I tick two of these boxes, I still get questions like ‘for whom are you working?’ People assume that I am the trainee or assistant and seem to struggle to get their head around the fact that a young person can be an elected decision-maker. However, I can only guess how much harder it must be for my female, PoC and more diverse colleagues to gain the respect that they deserve.
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?
We must assure investments in the European economy, not only to tackle the climate emergency but also to create sustainable wealth for future generations and gain a sovereign stance in the world. However, we can only achieve this if we use financial means – be they from loans or new income – to get out of the crisis stronger than we entered it. With the current fixation on not implementing new taxes nor approving new loans we gamble away any possibility for my and future generations to have a good life. At the same time, we are manifesting social and financial inequality throughout Europe if we do not counteract the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich that has happened during the times of polycrisis.
Even if people might perceive a 32-year-old MEP as quite young, in reality this MEP is double the age of the youngest voters we have in the EU.
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?
Especially with only about 10 MEPs of the age of around 30 – and those being already the youngest in the parliament — the pressure is high to represent our and future generations. Unfortunately, many colleagues of older generations have not yet realised our challenges: having the possibility of a sustainable life, the anxiety that has overcome huge parts of our generation, the lack of positivity regarding the future of our planet as well as the need for immediate change of our economic and social model in order to retain a good life. This is why some decisions seem to cause fights between various generations, instead of a common undertaking for the improvement of our situation.
For me as a young MEP it is of immense importance to try to represent this generational struggle and go into an exchange with older colleagues to make them understand where we are coming from and to subsequently improve the situation for everyone. However, we also need to continue this dialogue throughout our society.
Moreover, we need to increase the number of younger MEPs that represent our generation and the one coming after us. Even if people might perceive a 32-year-old MEP as quite young, in reality this MEP is double the age of the youngest voters we have in the EU (the voting age is 16 years in Germany and Austria).
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?
We need much more young people in the European Parliament in general and included in the decision making process in particular. To achieve this, we included the youth check as a request in my report on parliamentary, citizenship and democracy.
Furthermore, the European parties should also find ways to include more young people in their structures and make sure they reach office. In the end, it is the parties who put names on voting lists that citizens can choose from so they have to be open to placing young candidates in good spots on the list. Only if young people are on there, are they able to reach parliaments and administration.
The most important files Nienaß worked on for the last legislative term 2019-2023: