SILVIA MODIG (born 1976) is a member of the Helsinki City Council. As City Councillor, she is a member of the city’s Urban Environment Division, and chairs the division’s Environment and Permits department. Silvia was a Member of the Parliament in Finland 2011–2019. Silvia is also the Chair of the Board of the Finnish Library Association, and the Vice-Chair of the Finnish Tenants’ Association. She has previously served as Chairperson of the Left Alliance City Council Group in Helsinki, and as Chairperson of Orange Apartments, a non-profit company providing communal and affordable housing for young people in Helsinki. Silvia is a journalist by profession.
CLIMATE CHANGE – EUROPE NEEDS A GREEN NEW DEAL
The European Union is a global forerunner in climate innovation and environmental protection. But in order for us to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees we must do even more. The key in tackling climate change is that we do it in a fair and socially just way.
Europe needs a Green New Deal, a comprehensive package of investment in climate and welfare, that creates jobs through new solutions to the climate challenge. A Green New Deal means we can invest in railroads, education, research, innovation, and product development. The funding for this investment is possible through environmental protection taxes in the European Union, such as a tax on the climate impact of flying, tax on plastics or carbon tariffs. One of the Left Alliance’s goals for the next European parliamentary term is to increase the number of climate friendly jobs by 5 million, or approximately the population of Finland.
At the same time the European Union must tighten its targets for reducing emissions, and set a clear schedule for when it becomes fossil fuel free. This will also enable and encourage private investment in the right direction. Global warming means our societies must change and adapt. Our current economic model, which is based on over consumption and single-use products needs to change. This is also what climate experts say is required. With a Green New Deal it’s possible to turn the threat of climate change into an opportunity. A Green New Deal also opens up a chance to shape our society into a more fair and socially just direction.
HUMAN RIGHTS – A JUST EUROPE FOR ALL
The European Union is the most successful peace project in history. Its original idea was to make sure that European nations would never again fight a war with each other. At the moment this project is facing a threat: the rising popularity of the extreme right, which seeks to undermine human rights in a way that is familiar to us all from Europe’s recent history.
People who experienced the second world war have a lot to tell us about the similarities of the European political economy of the 2010s to the reality of the 1930s – attitudes hardened little by little, the human rights of different groups were reduced unnoticed at first, leading eventually to a reality, where millions of Jews and other minorities had been killed in concentration camps.
These same forces are at play today. In Denmark, a nazi party advocating racial segregation is standing in the parliamentary elections. Laws have been passed in Hungary and Poland undermining the principle of the rule of law. The extreme right has gained in elections in for example Sweden, Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands – and in Finland. In the European parliament extreme right wing MEPs do not recognize the basic concept of equality.
The best way to uphold peace in Europe is to increase equality and reduce the feeling of being left out, which us today an experience shared by far too many Europeans. This can be achieved by creating new jobs, and making sure all Europeans are covered by fair employment terms and conditions. In addition, our actions and solutions to the climate challenge must be socially just.
We must achieve a common European asylum policy, to which all member states are committed. At the moment member states at the external borders of the Union carry the largest share of the burden. This burden must be shared equally. European nations must significantly increase their UN refugee quotas. This is one of the ways in which we can create safe routes to Europe for those who are most vulnerable. The EU must defend universal human rights, the indivisible right to human dignity, and the rule of law. The EU must also be able to sanction those member states who do not respect these and take action against them. Standing for the basic values of the European Union is more important now than it has ever been before.
WELFARE – TAX AVOIDANCE MUST BE STOPPED
At the moment EU member states are losing billions of euros in tax revenues annually due to aggressive tax planning and tax avoidance. These lost revenues could be used for health services, pensions, care for the elderly, education and enhancing social security.
The EU has taken steps to prevent tax evasion and avoidance, and forced large companies to pay their fair share. For instance in 2016 the Commission required that Ireland recovered 13 billion euro from the IT giant Apple in unpaid taxes. A lot remains to be done however. There is strong resistance to shutting down tax havens: in particular the European right wing is passionately against stopping tax avoidance as a practice.
If we want to increase welfare in Europe from the level we have today, we must win the fight over tax evasion. It is the single worst enemy of welfare and also of fair competition. The more we can invest in health care, education and social security in Europe, the better our societies do.
DID YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT SILVIA?
Place of birth: Helsinki
Home languages: Finnish and Swedish
Family: My idea of family is an extensive one. I consider many those close to me family, even if there are no official legal or biological relations defining it so. My family are the people I share my every day life with, whom I trust and whom I look after.
Passions: Italian pasta, football and music in all its forms
Things that make me happy: When people do good without alternative motives – which happens surprisingly often
Things that cause me anxiety: Racism and hate speech
My motto: Movement is everything, not the aim itself. The world is changed piece by piece.
The most important issues for me in politics are equality and non-discrimination. I want Finland to be a country and a society, in which everyone can live freely, and as who they are. A society, where anyone can fulfill their potential no matter what their background is, and a society that takes care of all its members.
The most important thing I have learned in politics is the power of working together. It is an essential skill to learn to stand strongly for your opinions and values, and still be able to arrive at a compromise with others. The necessary starting point for this skill is to know and understand the issues at hand in depth. Long meetings and late nights with huge piles of papers to read are the every day reality of politics. Big and immediately visible achievements are rare, but when they do occur, they result from working with others.