8 January 2020

"If there is a good will to communicate, the differences disappear"

Interview with Ivan Štefanec, Member of the European Parliament

Ivan Štefanec, Slovak politician of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party. He has just started his second term as a Member of the European Parliament. We talked to him about his work in the European Parliament and his experience in the business world.

Mr Štefanec, you have just started your second term as Member of the European Parliament. Your job entails a lot of traveling and being away from home. Do you still have time for cooking and spending quality time with your family?

I am happy to spend every weekend with my family at home in Slovakia. Although it is sometimes difficult to find time, we always try to participate in cultural events or do sports. When it comes to cooking, my wife is the best cook. I don’t dare to compete with her in the kitchen.


Before you engaged in politics, you have worked over ten years for Coca-Cola Slovakia, including serving as CEO. How does your experience and background in the private sector help you in your work in the European Parliament?

My previous experience in business helps me to better assess the impact of specific legislation on companies and their employees. During my career, I have developed a network that can give me professional advice if needed.

You mentioned once that you would choose the word “change” as the title of your very own biography. Why is that?

Life is about change. I was born into a totalitarian regime and today I have the honour of representing the people of Slovakia in a democratically elected European Parliament. My first job was in a big armament manufacturing company and later I worked in an international food and beverage company. I think that everyone’s mission should be to change ourselves and society for the better.

Ivan Stefanec, Member of the European Parliament
Ivan Štefanec, Member of the European Parliament
© Office of Ivan Štefanec

You have been recently elected as President of the European Parliament Beer Club. What is the mission of the club? How do these forums and dialogue with stakeholders contribute to the parliamentary work?

Beer brewing is an important part of our European culture and economy. Before beer reaches the consumer, it travels a long journey and each phase of this journey has an impact on the quality and the price of beer. The mission of the club is to preserve and develop European beer in every aspect. Starting with the cultivation of ingredients to the culture of its serving. If we want to succeed, we need to communicate with manufacturers and traders in order to know how and in what way we can help them.

In recent years, we have witnessed an increasing split between Western and Eastern Europe. Sometimes we experience very different perspectives on the same topics, for example when we talk about dual-quality products. How could companies and civil society work together to overcome the current lack of trust towards political institutions and big companies?

Everything is about dialogue and will. If there is a good will to communicate, the differences disappear. If only strong words are used, the mutual distrust increases. The dual quality of food products is a good example about where misunderstandings can lead. Dual quality exists, but it is not present in a particular region or state, according to relevant research. However, some populist politicians have used it to scare people about the alleged dual category of citizens in the European Union. This is not true. Let us focus on the nature of the problems, let us communicate openly and mistrust will fade.

In the political guidelines of the new European Commission, SMEs are described as “everything that is good in our economy”. What can we expect in the next five years when it comes to new policies for SMEs in Europe?

It is certainly true that the SMEs represent ´the good´. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of our economy. They bring employment to the regions, maintain traditions and social ties. However, the globalisation and digitalisation bring new challenges that these companies have to face. Where a large company can afford to invest in technology, a small entrepreneur is at a disadvantage. Therefore, our task is to help SMEs overcome these obstacles. The business environment works well only when small and large companies work together.

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