As new MEPs from across Europe arrive in Brussels to take up their position in the European Parliament, we met two of the new members: Dr Ian Duncan, a British member of the ECR group, and Morten Helveg Petersen, a Danish member of the ALDE group. Speaking to us in the second part of our series on new MEPs, they told us of their impressions of Brussels and the policies they intend to pursue for the next five years. The first parliamentary session starts in Strasbourg on 1 July.
Dr Duncan holds a doctorate in palaeontology from Bristol University and has spent time working at BP, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the Scottish Refugee Council. He spent seven years as the head of the Scottish Parliament's Office in Brussels and has been politically engaged since his school days.
An economics graduate of the University of Copenhagen, Mr Helveg Petersen worked for the Confederation of Danish Industry and was a member of Denmark's Parliament for 11 years. Prior to being elected to the European Parliament, the 47-year-old was a director at the Association of Danish Media.
What are your first impressions of Brussels and the Parliament?
Ian Duncan: Well it's good to be back. I was based in Brussels for seven years as the head of the Scottish Parliament's office here. Being in the European Parliament now you get a much stronger feeling that things are changing and that the word reform is no longer a dirty word.
Morten Helveg Petersen: This place is enormous! Besides the difficulties in finding my way around, it is great to meet so many interesting people and to hear all the languages being spoken. I lived in Brussels as a kid, was a stagiaire with the European Commission after graduating and have been working on a European level professionally, so I have a feel for the city but I am still amazed by its diversity.
What are your favourite pastimes while not working?
Ian Duncan: I paint with oils and exhibit the work. And latterly I have been doing a lot of drawing using an iPad. My iPad is very forgiving; if you make a mistake you can undo it! Also I'm preparing an anthology of poetry and what I really want to do is illustrate it, more or less a labour of love.
Morten Helveg Petersen: Being with my kids. I am also big into sports; mainly bicycling, tennis and boxing training.
Who are your heroes from world history or from the current day?
Ian Duncan: Sitting here inside the Parliament you would have to talk about Winston Churchill; his pivotal role in the history of Europe, in recognising the value of cooperation in Europe and in rebuilding the European edifice.
Morten Helveg Petersen: Nelson Mandela springs to mind, but also great Europeans such as Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet.
Which issues would you most like to address in your work as an MEP?
Ian Duncan: Looking at this through the lens of Scotland, one issue will certainly be energy. The big debate will be around renewable energy. So much energy can be produced from renewable sources but it can't go anywhere. We need to look in the next few years at connecting our islands to the mainland. Also, if you look at the free trade agreements that are being explored just now, whisky is the single biggest export of our country. With a tariff of over 100% on whisky in India, a free trade agreement would lift up growth and jobs. Another passion of mine is making sure that Scottish fishermen are well served.
Morten Helveg Petersen: I have campaigned on green and energy issues and hope to work in this area in the future also. The issue of European energy independence is a most pressing one in the light of recent developments. The next European Parliament has to take this very seriously.