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Two more alumni with their sights on the European Parliament

It's a no-brainer: of the candidates that you can vote for on 23 May, 14 studied at Leiden University. We asked four of them about their motivation and ambitions. In this article we interview Samira Rafaela, alumna of Public Administration, and Caspar Rutten, who is studying Law.

‘I do more than just hand out leaflets’

Samira Rafaela (1989), number three on the D66 list. Graduated in Public Administration in 2011. Works for the police as national project leader on inclusion, lives in Uitgeest. 

You graduated in radicalisation and terrorism. Are these still important themes for you?

‘Definitely. I have seen, also in my work for the police, that excluding particular groups can have consequences for security. For example, because an individual can become susceptible to radicalisation. Inclusion is very important for a strong, social and safe Europe.’ 

What does your campaign look like?

‘I’ve just got back from Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire where I was trying to raise awareness of the elections. From my own networks, I know that many people have turned their backs on politics because politicians don’t put the issues that concern them on the agenda or because particular groups don’t recognise themselves in the political landscape. That’s why as part of my campaign I go and talk to the Caribbean community in The Hague and visit community centres. I’ve also visited a livestock farm that’s particularly focused on animal welfare. In short, I don’t just hand out flyers on the street!’ 

You are Diversity Ambassador for D66. What does that mean? 

‘D66 has a diversity network that advises and inspires the party on diversity and inclusion. The members of the network also give training courses and presentations to departments and committees, as well as scouting outside the party for talented people from different backgrounds.'  

You’ve held different advisory positions, and now work for the police. What opportunities for improvement, for example, do you see there?  

‘My work for the police is mainly about awareness and behaviour. These are issues we’ve been working on very intensively for a long time. We have to keep a critical eye on what we do.’

Your background is Jewish-Islamic-Antillian-Nigerian-Ghanaian. How has that enriched your life?

‘It’s always felt as if I had a kind of “world union” at home. It gives me unique perspectives and, as my mother always tells me, I get the best out of the different cultures and beliefs.’

‘I enjoyed studying in Exeter. The EU needs to encourage exchange programmes.’

Caspar Rutten (1966), number 12 on the CDA list. Graduated in 1990 in Law.  Has his own law firm and lives in Breda.

You are a member of the town council in Breda, which is rather different from the European Parliament… 

‘I believe contact with local residents and businesses is very important, particularly for your role as a representative of the people. It doesn’t really matter whether you are a member of the local council or of the House of Representatives or the European Parliament.

‘The EU is hugely important for Europe and for the Netherlands. It’s vital that the roles and responsibilities are at the right level of government: municipal, national or European. In my work I see that it’s sometimes necessary or better for legislation to be at European level, but that’s by no means always the case. The EU should leave more things to city and regional authorities. I’m also on the board of the Association of Dutch Municipalities. Cooperation between municipalities can be a way of keeping things that municipalities can’t organise alone as close as possible to the local residents.’

You studied law and are now a lawyer specialising in European competition law and privacy. Will these be key themes for you if you are elected to the European Parliament?

‘They certainly will, and important steps have already been taken. The availability of data plays a role here. For example, data that modern “connected cars” generate [cars that are linked to the internet and can share information on location, driving behaviour and the condition of the vehicle, Ed.]. It’s important that car drivers have free access to the data and that the data can’t be monopolised. That would restrict competition and get in the way of valuable innovations. Innovation is another key issue for me: the EU has an important role in making Europe a world leader.

‘I also believe Europe has to promote good education and that the EU should encourage the exchange of knowledge and students. I’m in favour of facilitating lifelong learning and expanding the Erasmus programme. When I was studying in Leiden, I spent three months in Exeter in England. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.’

Text: Rianne Lindhout

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