Europe took to the polls this weekend to elect over 700 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) from across European Union member states. The big headlines here across the pond are that 1) the British Labour Party got absolutely trounced and 2) the right wing, anti-European party of Dutch Politician Geert Wilders made big inroads.
But that is not all the story. A sufficient number of Dutch people (in their wisdom) decided to vote for the centrist, pro-European D-66 party to give D-66 three seats in Brussels. This means that my friend, Marietje Schaake, will become an MEP.
Marietje, 30, is one of Europe’s brightest and most promising young leaders. Her election is great news not only for Marietje and her supporters, but for those of us around the world who are firm believers in human rights and minority rights.
She will also bring with her to Brussels impeccable transatlantic credentials.
I first met Marietje five years ago through our common affiliation with Humanity in Action, a European and American human rights fellowship program. In years since, she has worked in the United States Congress and with groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Human Rights. She was also one of the founding fellows of the British Council-sponsored TN2020 program. Recently, Marietje helped organize the Pioneers! program which was a cultural exchange between the cities of Amsterdam and New York to celebrate the 400th anniversery of Henry Hudson’s voyage.
I have known Marietje to be an unwavering defender of human rights with a particular focus on the sometimes uneasy relationship between native Dutch and the large Muslim-minority population in Holland. She is the author of the forthcoming, Between Faith and Suspicion, Muslims in the West, transatlantic relations and the need to redefine alliances, which will be published by the Atlantic Commission.
Bottom line: she’s an activist, an intellecutal — and now a politician. (Remind you of someone?) I look forward to watching her star rise.