The new European Parliament had its first plenary session on 3 July when many new MEPs – in fact a record number of 58 % of all MEPs – took their seats for the first time. The share of female MEPs has increased steadily since the first European elections in 1979 and exceeded 40 %. Evin Incir, 35, a Social Democrat from Sweden, is one of them.
Born in south-eastern Turkey, she arrived as a child to Sweden, where she early became engaged in the Social Democratic youth organisation, studied law and gained experience of international relations.
She has been coordinator of international party support in the Olof Palme International Center, general-secretary in the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY), and, until her election, deputy international secretary of the party. The Brussels Times met her for an interview after the opening of the parliament in Strasbourg.
“International issues have always been close to my heart,” she says. “Engaged in the Swedish Social Democratic party from early on, I felt that solidarity shouldn’t see any borders.”
Her international engagement is probably also influenced by her Kurdish origin. The Kurds are still waiting for democratic rights and local self-government in their countries of origin or fighting for the independence they were promised after the First World War.
She has grown up in a neglected Swedish suburb and never gives up. After she failed in her first attempt to become elected in 2014, she tried again this year and was elected as the fifth MEP of her list. The Social Democrats received 23 % of the votes in the European elections.
“It feels awesome to be elected to the world’s largest parliament (or almost largest) and be able to work for the issues I’m burning for.”
She describes the first week in the Parliament as very intensive, full of meetings, but everything went smoothly with the support of the party office. She also knew several MEPs from her previous work.
In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats, came on third place with 15 % of the votes. Most of the other parties in Sweden refuse to accept them in any government or to rely on their votes. In the European Parliament the Sweden Democrats are members of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). Could she imagine to cooperate with them?
As member of the Progressive Alliance of the Socialists and Democrats Group (S&D), her reply is a flat refusal.
“We choose to cooperate with those who share our ideological views. I feel that I have more in common with Social Democrats from other countries than with other Swedes on the far-right political spectrum. In Sweden we refuse to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats since they originate from the white supremacy movement.”
How did you react when the Brexit party and other MEPs protested against the European anthem during the opening ceremony in the parliament by turning their backs to the ceremony or refusing to rise up? “It was of course the wrong thing to do. You shouldn’t act like this against the parliament to which you have been elected.”
Contrary to many national parliaments (but not the Swedish parliament), where members are required to declare their allegiance to the constitution or the rule of law, the MEPs of the European Parliament are not required to swear a similar oath of allegiance to Europe and its values.
EU cannot ban the entry of any party which has been legally voted in national elections. Would you be in favour of an oath?
“I haven’t thought so much about it,” she replies. “I think that it goes without saying that every MEP respects the values EU stand for, without having to swear an oath.”
Were you surprised that the S&D group suggested David-Maria Sassoli as president of the Parliament? She admits that she did not know very much about Sassoli before.
“We had a group meeting the evening before the vote where he was presented. We had all hoped that Frans Timmermans would be elected to Commission president. When the lead candidate system was abandoned by the Council, new names had to be proposed to other positions by the Parliament.”
The Parliament has a reputation of being wasteful, with some MEPs misusing their administrative allowances. Trust in the Parliament is important and she wants to work for more transparency. She is no supporter of the wasteful and environmentally damaging shuttle between the two seats of the Parliament (Strasbourg and Brussels).
“I understand that there is a majority in the Parliament for a single seat but that a change would require an amendment of the European treaty,” she says.
Asked what can be done to empower the Parliament and strengthen its role in relation to the Council and the Commission, Evin replies that the mandate of the parliament lies primarily in the hands of the member states and that is the source of its power.
”I want to focus on issues such as fundamental rights, democracy, gender equality, social justice and climate change,” she says. She looks forward to work with these issues in the two committees to which she was appointed: Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), and Development (DEVE, as deputy).
The European Parliament is known to be more outspoken in international conflicts and human rights than the Commission and the Council whose positions often are influenced by the economic and political interests of the Member States. How does she intend to act in such questions, in particular the Kurdish issue?
She has written that she has a European, Swedish and Kurdish identity and replies that she wants to raise the Kurdish issue among other issues.
“There is a need for more information about the plight of the Kurds and more unity among the Kurdish communities.” She agrees that different solutions – from local democratic rights, self-government to independence – should be considered depending on country.
She says that she will participate in the delegation for members of parliament from EU and Turkey, a forum which should be used for exchanging views and improving the situation in Turkey, where Kurdish members of parliament have been deprived of their parliamentary immunity and arrested.
“A good society for me is one that puts solidarity in the centre of all policies,” Evin Incir summarises her political vision. “The good society provides all people equal opportunities for development. The freedom to be able to fulfil one´s dreams regardless of background and ability is for me what defines a good life.”