This is the interview with Eric Alira. Coming from Burkina Faso, he integrated into Polish culture to such extent that was chosen to become a politician. After years of work in his community, former non-EU citizen ended up presenting Poland in Brussels. Eric worked on different positions at the European Parliament. Experience and motivation helped him to start his own business, still leaving political ties for promoting African-European cooperation.
Could you please briefly introduce yourself and your road to become a Polish politician?
My name is Eric Alira. At the moment, I live in Brussels. I was born in Burkina Faso and went to Austria for study. I visited Poland as a tourist, but later spend 20 years there.
I am very happy to answer this question and to give you my perspective of how I became a Polish politician. I think everyone can become a politician, no matter where you are now. You just need to have a vision and to have a community, with which you have a common project. To be honest, I have never thought of becoming a politician. I was just a normal civil society activist, working with young people, teaching African dance and being among people when there was a need for me. Once, my community in Poland proposed me to run in the campaign. It was in 2006. Firstly, I replied that I was not the one to be in politics. However, I was persuaded that I was needed. This way, I became a Polish politician.
Were you easily accepted within your colleagues in Poland?
I think yes. I was very easily accepted into my Polish community, because I wanted to be accepted. From the beginning of my life in Poland, I was working to be accepted into the local Polish culture. I lived day by day with Polish people. This was a hard work. I worked with people to accept me and work on myself to be accepted by them. The work was comprehensive.
Do you think that the EU’s values of multiculturalism and diversity fully accept former non-EU citizen to become a politician in the Union?
I think, yes. The EU fully accepts this. It does not matter if you were born in Africa or Germany. If you want to be part of a European country, of European continent and to share all good and bad things together, you can do everything.
What were you doing at the European Parliament?
At the parliament, I used to work as an advisor for EPP political group dealing with development committee, ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Before it, I dealt with culture and education committee, working for Polish Member of the European Parliament. This helped me to become independent and start working for my company.
Are you planning to return to politics?
I do not know. Politics means that people need you and they want you to be their representative.
What are your main activities now?
Now I am a consultant. I have Alira Consulting, dealing with business development, helping companies to network in Brussels. I also help companies which want to invest in Africa and vice versa. I am linking companies together. I work on European projects, like Horizont 2020, for example in agriculture and security. I also work for NGOs, dealing with peace issues, like African Institute for Peace.
Did you have a chance to work with your Motherland Burkina Faso when you became a Polish politician?
Not that much. I was the vice President of Foreign Affairs Committee at the European Parliament. This is an important position to develop relations with non-EU countries, such as Africa.
How do you see present position of Poland in the EU and its perspectives?
Present situation in Poland is a pity for me and for all other Poles. You know, I was not born in Poland, but I really have Poland in my deep heart. I believe, I love this country. That is why all bad news coming from Poland concern me as well. I worry about it. Now it is not easy for Polish citizens to walk on the streets of France or Belgium, as we are seen differently than before. Unfortunately, not in a good way but in a bad way… That is why I am not happy about things that are happening in Poland. I am very well linked to Poland. I have one big part of my heart there.
How do you see the perspectives for this situation?
It is very difficult to foresee. I do not want to be pessimistic. I believe only in Polish capacity of making a big change. Polish nation proved it many times in the history that it can fight for a big change in the country. From this point of view, it is a matter of time, but let us stay optimistic. One day, we will wake up in our dream Poland again.
From your political experience, how do you see Ukraine’s further integration into the EU?
It is obvious, that the EU worries about the situation in Ukraine, however it is a very delicate issue. Sometimes, I have a feeling there is a very dirty game among the member states regarding Ukraine. Everyone knows the situation in Donbas region and the position of some of the EU’s countries regarding this. In general, the fact, that the EU has just awarded the visa free movement to the EU for Ukrainians, means that there is a concrete vision and that EU cannot let Ukraine alone. Ukraine is part of European values. I think, it is a very complex and delicate situation. The EU knows well that it has to continue to work for peace in Ukraine, for integration of Ukrainians, complete integration of Ukrainians into the family house of the European Union.