POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Monica Semedo: ‘Reflecting, learning, growing’



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EXCLUSIVE: Monica Semedo agreed to an op-ed in Delano and Paperjam to give her perspective on the events that led to her suspension from the European Parliament and her resignation from the DP. Library picture: Monica Semedo is seen speaking at an election event, 4 February 2019. Photo: Matic Zorman 

COMMENT: Suspended from the European Parliament for 15 days following harassment complaints from three of her former assistants, MEP Monica Semedo chose Paperjam and Delano to publicly give her side of the story for the first time, writing she fully accepts her mistakes.

Monica Semedo agreed to publicly comment for the first time on the harassment case which led to her suspension from the European Parliament in the form of this op-ed, published exclusively in Luxembourg by Delano and Paperjam. Caught under the crossfire of criticism, she subsequently resigned from the DP while expressing her desire to continue serving in Brussels and Strasbourg.

The period of suspension at the European Parliament, which has now ended, has allowed me to take a step back and reflect on these past events.

The most fundamental in my opinion is my desire to apologise publicly to my former assistants. I want to tell them that I never intended to hurt or humiliate any of them. I realised too late that my strong messages, high standards, the way I expressed myself, and the way I criticised them had hurt them.

As a newly elected member of the parliament, with no experience within a political office on the European level, I intended to work zealously and dynamically on the causes that the voters elected me. This zeal and dynamism, as well as the rhythm of work at the parliament, did transform into a tough work environment. This is the flipside of the enthusiasm that continues to be with me.

I am far from complaining and victimising myself, I take full responsibility for my actions.

On this note, I would like my former assistants, but also my work colleagues and all my voters, to be aware that I never intended to hurt or deride anyone. I, therefore, reiterate from the bottom of my heart, my sincere apologies to my former assistants and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Once the decision of the president of the parliament was made public, I found myself in the centre of public criticism. I do not deserve the status of a victim and that has never been my intention.

I fully respect that the press did its job by publishing what has been published, however, the condescending, populist and racist comments on social media has highlighted a very unpleasant segment of our society. I also condemn the way certain members of the European Parliament’s advisory committee commented on the report, despite its confidentiality. The same applies to the members of the cabinet of the president of the parliament who anonymously, knowing what they were doing was wrong, expressed themselves in the media on the severity of my behaviour. This report is confidential, to protect all parties concerned. I have respected that.

My, now former, political party, the DP--Demokratesch Partei--has allowed itself to be influenced by public criticism, even though the party leadership had expressed their support for me a week earlier, hence I took the decision to resign.

I had expressed my agreement to temporarily no longer participate in meetings of the party’s steering committee and to explain myself to an advisory committee that is subject to the observance of confidentiality, at least until the decision of this committee. Moments after this videoconference meeting, I noticed that the highest levels of my party had posted a video, produced in advance, that was being circulated on social media. The interviews for the next few days were given in total violation of the promises given. It’s sickening. I was neither advised nor informed.

The sanction of the speaker of the European Parliament and the media coverage around it created panic within the DP, which up until then had absolutely no concern for this matter. The party’s entire ruling body--I’m not naming names--but everyone was aware of the problems that I was facing, and the specific accusations raised against me. I have always communicated on this subject, from the start, with complete transparency. The complaints against me were known in every detail since I had notably forwarded to them the written advice of my lawyer. The panic that followed could have been avoided if they had instead agreed to listen to me and take the matter seriously.

I am nevertheless aware that some of my behaviour and I state some, not all, of which I was accused, was excessive and open for criticism. That is why I accepted the moderate sanction of the president of the parliament; I waived any recourse and spontaneously apologised.

Going in this direction would once again imply a form of victimisation and a refusal to accept my mistakes, which are the antithesis of my education and my political commitment.

On the contrary, I would like my experience to be shared and to serve as a basis for new dialogues.

However, exercising a mandate as a member of the European Parliament is a great honour for me; it is also a great responsibility towards my voters. I know that most of my colleagues experience the same feeling, which can often lead to turmoil within the professional environment. Observing this does not make it permissible, but it is the first step towards remedial action. Recovering from a bad experience and receiving forgiveness from one’s peers is also obtained by accepting to share this experience. I hope that within my political group I can be part of this reflection and why not extend it to the parliament because, as we know, relations between parliamentary assistants and MEPs are sometimes problematic and this goes back to long before my case.

On a final note, I would like to say to all those who support me, and I have felt their support strongly in recent weeks: more than ever do I want to exercise my mandate as a member of the European Parliament. This dreadful experience has not dampened my political enthusiasm, though it will remain with me and will guide me on how I manage a team in the future. I will continue to defend my European ideals within the Renew Europe group.

The end of my suspension has arrived. I will enthusiastically resume my work in the many committees that I am involved in. I owe this to my voters; they have put their trust in me. I am committed to all those who, every day, get up and give their best to make ends meet, the single parents and those who, unfortunately, start off less fortunate in life. I want to fight for the serene integration, without discrimination, of all minorities and all communities. This is at the heart of my political commitment and this is what I want to focus on today with a team where trust reigns and where I have been able to learn the lessons of the past.

I will not give up my mandate as an MEP. I have three years left to bring to a successful conclusion, together with my colleagues, on the issues that are dear to me. On Wednesday it was confirmed that I remain a member of the Renew Europe group, whose values I share, and who will renew the European Union, which more than ever deserves our full attention.

I accept my mistakes; I have no desire to fight anyone. I am continuing my mandate and remain at everyone’s disposal.

Monica Semedo was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. Read Semedo’s op-ed in French on Paperjam.lu.