Karima Delli isn’t your typical European Parliament committee chair.
She takes over the Greens’ only top job this week covering transport — a woman, in her 30s and with an Algerian background — and is used to facing-off against National Front leader Marine Le Pen in northern France.
“In electing a young woman you are sending out a very strong signal to European citizens,”
Delli said from the chair’s seat immediately after being confirmed in committee [in January].
At 37 she isn’t the youngest MEP, but she will be the youngest chair. Delli replaces Michael Cramer, a German Green with a penchant for cycling and rail who plans to step down as an MEP in 2019 and in 2014 agreed to switch the chair half-way through the term. A tight internal vote was held this month to determine who would stand.
As part of her priorities, Delli says she wants to prioritize social issues and deploy transport in the fight against climate change. A source close to Delli said she also hoped to bring a different style to committee leadership.
Delli is the ninth child from a family of 13 and grew up in the industrial city of Roubaix, not far from the Belgian border. Her father worked in a textile factory while her mother cared for the family. A former parliamentary assistant to a Green senator in France, she has a record of activism.
Her election to the European Parliament in 2009 came as a surprise. Delli was fourth on the Paris list for the Greens but benefited from an unexpected boost in support for the party in the French capital. Her first committee gig was in employment affairs where she focused on social housing and workers’ rights.
In 2014 she was re-elected, this time as first on the list from the northern Hauts De France region. It is here that she competed directly against Le Pen for votes.
A transition to transport policy came as part the European Parliament’s response to the Dieselgate scandal. Delli helped lead the push to collect over 150,000 signatures calling on the European Parliament to launch its own investigation. She’s been a vice-chair of the committee of inquiry since its inception.