AMCHAM: Please introduce yourself to our readers, so they better know yourself, your background and your professional career.
Isabel Wiseler: I am an elected member in the European Parliament, from Luxembourg. I sit within the EPP (European People’s Party) group.
I am the spokesperson for the EPP in the Subcommittee on human rights, I am a member of the Foreign affairs committee and the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint parliamentary committee. I am also substitute member of the Committee for industry, research and energy, the Committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs and the Delegation for relations with China.
I have been member of the Christian Social Party (CSV) in Luxembourg since 1985 and I am sitting on the Council city of Luxembourg since the communal elections of October 2005. In 2017 and till my election as a MEP, I became an Alderwoman of the City of Luxembourg, responsible for social work, the elderly, social housing, gender equality, integration policy and youth.
Initially, I worked as a secondary school teacher. I had my master’s degree in modern literature at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Between 2013 and 2017, I was also a member of the school’s board of the private school Fieldgen..
What are the values which guide you as you make decisions?
I am guided by democratic values that are at the heart of the European foundation. Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights are at the core. Our aim should be to safeguard our fundamental values and fight for freedom of expression, promote social justice and equality and fight discrimination.
Especially as the world is becoming more authoritarian, as autocratic regimes are more shameless and aggressive in their repression and as many democratic governments suffer from backsliding by adopting tactics of restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, it is now time, more than ever, to promote and uphold the values on which the European Union is based and to fight for democracy.
Please explain to our readership how the European Parliament works.
The Parliament is a directly elected European body which has three main roles: legislative, supervisory and budgetary.
The Parliament acts as a co-legislator. It shares the power to adopt and amend legislative proposals. It also plays a role in supervising the work of the European Commission as well as other EU bodies and it cooperates closely with national parliaments of Member States to get their input. Finally, together with the European Council, the Parliament establishes the EU budget.
The Parliament endorses responsibility not only in promoting democratic decision making in Europe but more globally in upholding democracy, fighting for freedom of speech and for fair elections across the world.
What are your top five (or more) priorities of discussion and decision within the European Parliament?
- Supporting Ukraine with regard to the Russian unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.
- Bringing awareness of the risks of disinformation and foreign interference in our democracies and fighting against the hybrid war autocratic countries are waging against us.
- Defending rule of law in the European Union.
- Defending democracy in the world and human rights (awareness of the current backsliding on the international stage).
- Defending the independence of journalists (awareness of its necessity for democracy).
- Bringing awareness of the necessity to defend democracy in our countries because it is not a given.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in the past two years?
One of the achievements I am proud of during the current parliamentary term is certainly the adoption of the 2018 annual report on Human rights and democracy in the world and European Union’s policy on the matter for which I was rapporteur. I am convinced that it is of paramount importance to take stock of the human rights situation in the world and to address general challenges to defend and promote democracy.
We must be aware that nothing can be taken for granted and that all human rights achievements need to be defended. This report highlights our determination and strengthens our position in fighting democratic backsliding.
This is an annual report and I am also rapporteur for the 2022 report.
What have you learnt and how have you changed your approach to get things done?
We have to be more determined, to be more aware of the necessity to act and to be able to defend ourselves and our values more effectively. I am convinced that it is necessary to give a voice to those who are silenced in autocratic regimes and that we have to give our active support to those fighting for democratic change. Defending our values more effectively is of the outmost importance not only to promote democracy and human rights all over the world but it is also a way to defend our own democracies. We must keep on strengthening our efforts in affirming – on the multilateral level – the value of democracy and human rights as a global and universal necessity.
This is also why in the context of the unprovoked and unjustified aggression of Russia against Ukraine, we must not hesitate to give all the possible help to the Ukrainian people defending their freedom on the one hand and on the other hand to deploy our efforts to battle disinformation which to a large extent is intended to undermine democratic systems and the idea of democracy itself.
To what degree and what aspects are the members of the European Parliament united or divided concerning the Ukraine situation and Russia?
We can affirm that the EU stands firmly by Ukraine and its people and will continue to strongly support the Ukrainian economy, society and armed forces as well as the future reconstruction of the country. The Parliament and its member states condemn in the strongest possible terms the unjustified, unprovoked and illegal Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The cohesion is reflected through the large majority with which resolutions concerning Ukraine are adopted (for example candidate status, travel documents issued by Russia in illegally occupied territories, forced deportation and forced adoption of children…)
The rare voices of doubt come only from extreme right and extreme left wings.
Please share your assessment of gender and other aspects of diversity equality within the European Parliament and what further needs to be done.
The European Parliament has always been very active on gender equality issues. Indeed, the work of one of its standing committees focuses exclusively on women’s rights and gender equality. The Parliament has adopted with a large majority initiative reports aiming to reach equality at work (career, pay gap,…), encouraged fathers to take more parental leave and increased the employment rate of women, just to name a few. The Parliament’s positions defend women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights inside and outside the Union.
The European Parliament is also a strong defender of the rights of LGBTIQ people. In response to the discriminatory attitude of governing parties in Poland (and the backsliding of these rights in Hungary), the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that our entire Union is a “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone”. Our President Roberta Metsola reiterates regularly our position as problems still occur.
What’s is your biggest disappointment during this mandate?
I am very disappointed and angry about the corruption scandal which involves people inside the European Parliament and NGOs. A consequence, although unjustified, is that it puts at stake the reputation of institutions and people who do their work with honesty and enormous engagement. I trust in our justice to do what has to be done.
In what ways are you optimistic for the future?
I am optimistic for the future if we can join forces in the European Union, if we see the necessity of solidarity and common action on the international stage and if we manage to safeguard the principles of rule of law inside the Union. All this is hard work but in the European Parliament, I work with a great number of colleagues who are very engaged and who share these points of view … so I believe we and the generations to come – in which I trust – can do it through constant process.
How do you deal with the stress in your position?
I love what I do. That really helps to reduce the stress. I also have a wonderful team working with me: the atmosphere at the office and the helpful attitude of each one in the team is a real comfort. The unconditional support of my husband and family is paramount. The thinking I should do sport, relax, etc isn’t very helpful …
What is your favorite comfort food?
Chocolate, no doubt.
What book have you most enjoyed reading over the past five years?
Lately, I really enjoyed reading Vivre vite by Brigitte Giraud, she won the Goncourt Prize 2022.