The EU Commission is one of the most powerful of the EU institutions. 🇪🇺 Headquartered in Brussels, the essential and transcendental decisions about the future of the EU and its citizens are made behind the Berlaymont’s building walls.
But, beyond power and politics…Who are the people that are working for us there?Find out who Aura Sallas is, a member of Juncker`s team. 💫
Aura Salla, a European dreamer and Merkel`s fan
Aura Salla is on her way to fulfill her dream: to be a Commissioner of the EU or a future Foreign Minister of Finland.
She is currently working in the Communications team in the European Political Strategy Center but is expecting to run for the next European Parliament elections, one reason being: “I can never become a Commissioner if I am not first, a member of the parliament”. Economic, Foreign, and Security Defense Policy is her desired field.
This ambitious, 33-year-old woman does not perceive any barriers that can stop her. Since being a child, she dreamed of being part of the European project and is nowadays living and working in the heart of the European Union, in Brussels.
“I was 12 when I got my first dog and I named him Ecu – so ECU was supposed to be European Common Currency (the name of the euro before officially becoming the euro). [she laughs] I remember naming my dog after that, so even then I had already decided that I wanted work for this common project. That was always my dream and still is”. 🐶
Aura was born in a small finish town call Lappeenranta, closely located south-East to the Russian border. This proximity with the historical “enemy” of the West was also important in shaping her European soul.
“It was so very important for us to be part of the West, among other things, because Finland is not a NATO country. We still have a compulsory army and I served in a finish air force next to the Russian border, which was very important for me. The West has been an essential part of our identity and being part of the West means a lot for us. I felt that I was European since birth”
When Finland joined the EU, people, media, newspapers –national and local- held debates and Aura can remember the value of those discussions: “Peace, equality, rule of law, and everything democratic is what Europe stands for. That’s how I grew up”.
Aura’s parents were also a strong moral reference, based on admiration. “I grew up in a very middle-class family. My father is an entrepreneur and my mother is an adult educator. In the 1990’s, there was a big depression in Finland and our family business went bankrupt.”
She told of how, in spite of the economic difficulties, her parents managed to come through, built another company and provided her a stable environment to grow up in. Her family’s experience gives her great respect for entrepreneurs: “It affected me a lot. All individuals should have the right and the possibility to build their own future”.
Aside from the admiration she holds for her parents, Aura also declares herself a fan of Merkel. This veneration caused her to choose Leipzig as her Erasmus destination, at the same University where the German chancellor studied. “I think she stands for Europe. Even, when times are hard and her party disagrees with her. She stands for Europe”, Aura says.
In her spare time, Aura likes to dance finish folk dances and play finish baseball, thus people usually tell her that she must be nationalist. But really, Aura has very open-mind: “I am very liberal. I think I am a really hardcore liberal person and a more hardcore European federalist”. Aura strongly believes in a United States of Europe. She considers all of Europe her home. “Whenever I travel abroad from this continent I feel that I come home whenever I come back to Europe”.
Auras’ path to her career at the Commission was full of hard work. “Since I was 15, I realized that I wanted to be a foreign minister of Finland but then I realized that there is also the European Union and that it is an even better place to do politics”. It was at that age when she joined her first political party.
Step by step, Aura went from high school to university. She had been working in numerous occupations when she received a call from the Finnish prime minister of the time and the, now, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen. The phone call was a request to work on his team, a request which she accepted. It was from that position that she later joined Juncker`s Communication team.
Her work at the Commission consumes her whole day but she loves her lifestyle. “What I like most about working here is the innovation. Thinking outside of the box, and thinking of new things, new ways we can improve this European project.”
For Aura, her work is for the citizens. She sees the EU as a project to the people and for the people: “I want to see that everyone, from Bulgaria to Romania and the Western Balkans, has equal possibilities, because we are the same. If we can help the rest of the countries here, I think it is absolutely worth it”.
Concerning her distant future, Aura has no doubt will never retire. “I will work towards common Europe forever. I do not know in which positions yet, but I am sure that for the rest of my life I will be working for this common project.”
But, what do the streets think about Europe? 🚶🏻♂️💃🏼
Aura Salla is really interested in knowing what people think about Europe.💡 Now that we have met her and the Europe of her dreams, we asked the people, what the European Union means to them? 🚶🏻♂️🕴🏼
“Being part of the EU is very interesting for business people like me. Indeed, I am here these days in order to get a good agreement for the Canarie’s bananas. EU offers us a broad market where we sell our products without borders. Besides, EU is a good idea, even more for the young people due to cultural exchanges, easy traveling and meeting different traditions and people. Yes. The EU has a future”.
“I have been in Brussels my whole life so and I think that [EU] is something special to Brussels because not all cities are as diverse as Brussels is. I really like it”.
“As a Pole, I think that being part of the EU is a great chance because Poland, for several ages, was after the Iron Curtain so, now as a part of Europe we got an unfettered position. If you want to move abroad you can do it without asking anyone any officer about it. EU has future but everything depends on the people. Now, some politics, especially in Poland and Hungary, try to change Europe but I am optimistic although we have to protect our rights, we have to protect our democracies and our countries, and we have to appreciate the drive we’ve got now”
“I [she] am from Morocco, so I am not an EU citizen. But i think that with a stronger European Union, we can dream more about being welcome in Europe as non-EU citizens. I think that Europe can be more open to others, it is not only about gathering our strengths, it’s also to be more open to others”
“I am not sure If Europe is good for all countries because there are still inequalities. The large powers are still there. Some countries are making some changes which can be kind of scary but also necessary. In effect, we have to find a fair middle ground. However, EU is a project that we should keep although Everyone should find and should talk about the differences of each nation”
“From an outside perspective, the EU is a good thing. People can visit all the countries they want. There are countries that aren’t very well off financially, so the Union helps them. All is positive”
“Life is complicated nowadays, so, in my case, I do not feel like being an EU citizen offers me anything special. However, I feel that it is important and positive for Spain to be part of the EU and we should never leave. The EU has a future and in a long-term period, there will be more integration”
This street artist thinks that EU will disappear. He reflects on the time in history when there was conflict between the Muslim and Christian populations in Turkey. He expresses a disbelief in the survival of the EU as we are seeing some of the same issues today.
Behind the scenes. Personal experience talking with Aura Salla
In spite of her position and her achievements, she is a very humble person. Before my appointment with her, I was worried because of my shoes. During my trip to Brussels, I had only brought my Dr. Martens boots and I was not sure if they would be appropriate enough to enter into the Commission to speak with her.
However, at the moment she received me at the door of the European Commission, I realized that she is just a woman with a big smile who is pursuing her dreams. She has a modest soul, is interested in meeting and knowing people and, more importantly, in promoting the opportunities that they get in life.
A last and little detail: she was wearing a pair of white Nike’s sneakers 😉
Writing: Marisa López
Photography and Editing: Nicole Proano