The European Union commits to ambitious goals regarding fighting poverty all over the world, but in order to achieve them, it is important that political leaders will not hesitate in implementing all the required measures. ONE, a Belgian-based NGO undertook a campaign before the European Parliament elections and it convinced 336 candidates to sign a pledge for fighting extreme poverty.

More details on the dimensions, the significance and the aftermath of the campaign were presented by Laura Veza-Vișan, Youth Ambassador for the ONE campaign in Belgium. Born and raised in Mediaş, a small city in Transylvania, she now lives in Brussels and works as a consultant for the European Commission.

18 - Laura Veza- Visan

Citeşte varianta în limba română aici.

Europunkt: What is the ONE Vote 2019 campaign and why was it needed?

Laura Veza-Vişan (L.V.V.): The ONE Vote 2019 campaign is an opportunity for EU leaders to speak out publicly and pledge to keep Europe on track towards fulfilling its international development commitments. With just over a decade to go until the deadline to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the pressure is on to ensure strategic decisions are made and targeted investments on the people, places and issues that need it most are implemented.

The ONE Vote 2019 campaign is a tool by which we as citizens are urging decision makers to position Europe at the forefront of the fight to end extreme poverty; and we are backed by other Europeans, with nine in ten believing it is important to help people in developing countries

Europunkt: Why did you choose to join the campaign as a young ambassador?

L.V.V.: I joined the call to advocate for a world without poverty driven by the wish to make an impact, however small, on a topic I care deeply about, namely sustainable development, especially with regards to education, employment and social entrepreneurship in developing countries. Having travelled around South East Asia and learning more about the big social and environmental challenges faced by the developing world, I believe that our societies have the power, knowledge and resources to eliminate extreme poverty, provide better education and skills needed for human development and well being, provide better healthcare services, fight gender inequalities and ensure that all people are making use of their potential to thrive on this planet. What’s still missing is social justice and the equilibrium of forces.

I am convinced that if more young people would speak up and act upon matters that are close to their hearts, more could be done to live sustainably, change the existing status quo and influence decision-makers. The ONE Youth Ambassador programs allowed me to join forces with like-minded peers from all over Europe, who share the same values, hopes and vision for our future and whom, by acting together can shape policies, keep the decision-makers accountable and raise general awareness about poverty and inequality, be it in developing countries or in Europe.

Europunkt: What did your job involve as a young ambassador?

L.V.V.: Youth Ambassadors are a group of over 300 volunteers driving ONE’s campaigns across Europe. In the context of the ONE Vote 2019 campaign, I along with my fellow volunteers in Belgium had the task of securing pledge signatures from both Belgian and other European candidates, including Romanians. We took all opportunities to engage with candidates – from tweeting, calling and sending emails, to meeting them face to face at the European Parliament in Brussels, to asking questions at debates and public events – we ensured our voices were heard and our issues were discussed, even by spitzenkandidaten like Manfred Weber, Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager who signed the pledge.

18 - YA launch

Europunkt: What were the overall results of this campaign so far?

L.V.V.: In the run-up to the European Parliament election we have seen that what motivates candidates to pledge their support to end extreme poverty isn’t their political affiliation – its a sense of justice and equality. We gathered support from 336 leading candidates from across the political spectrum and from 21 countries. 156 of these signers were elected Members of the European Parliament. If this group will be to form a political group, it will be the second largest political group after the European People’s Party

Europunkt: Looking at the list of 336 European Parliament candidates who have signed the commitment proposed by the ONE, I see a small number of members of some of the parties listed as Eurosceptic or populist. Are your goals incompatible with the agenda of the Euro-skeptic and populist parties? I ask because, for example, the new European populist star, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, has repeatedly wished to increase investment in Africa in order to diminish the flow of immigrants from the Mediterranean.

L.V.V.: My engagement as ONE’s Youth Ambassador is non-partisan. We engaged with candidates as individuals, offering them the opportunity to join our fight to end extreme poverty by signing our pledge and supporting our policy recommendations. We believe the fight against extreme poverty is an objective that goes beyond political orientation. However, development aid efforts need to respect the dignity and equality of people. We believe that EU aid needs to be focused on poverty eradication by investing in the health, education and economic empowerment of the people who need it the most, so we welcome any signers beyond political affinity who abide by these principles.

Europunkt: Now that the elections are over, have you proposed to continue the initiative among the elected MEPs, especially until now that the campaign has focused on the candidates from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Ireland? In Romania, I noticed that the only MEP who signed the pledge is Siegfried Muresan.

L.V.V.: In the first phase of the campaign, we focused on the countries where we had volunteer programmes. We did our best to reach out to candidates from other countries, but it was challenging without having a local presence. Now that the elections are over, it’s a totally different game and the newly elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be close to us in their new offices here in Brussels. We are absolutely going to engage new MEPs, especially those from countries that were harder for us to reach the first time simply because of the distance. We are going to focus on those that will have a particular role to play on our issues, for example by being part of key committees.

The group of Romanian MEPs are interesting for us because there are many new faces to the parliament, many of whom we see as potential allies. This is what we relish most!

18 - Romanian President _Pledge

Europunkt: Although the European Parliament is one of the most progressive European institutions, its influence on major European decisions is reduced, being shared with the Commission and the Council. Are you going to expand the campaign and the new commissioners that will be invested this year? But to Heads of State and Government, members of the Council, outside of the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis?

L.V.V.: Absolutely – following the parliamentary elections all eyes are now on who will be part of the new Commission and we will be engaging them as well to secure pledges. We are following these developments closely. And, we never stop working as well to secure commitments from other leaders whose support would be valuable to our work – this of course includes Heads of State.

Europunkt: How can someone from Romania help in the new campaign follow-up?

Taking part in our upcoming activities and initiatives at, spreading our messages across social media and raising awareness about these issues with friends, family and society at large.

Interview by Liviu Iancu.


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