A life in competition, from sport to politics
Nancy Arendt, a Luxembourg swimming and triathlon star of the Seoul and Sydney Olympics, has successfully transitioned from a sporting career to political arena. Once the country’s youngest MP, she hails the new ideas with which the next generation is transforming her CSV party.
What influences has your Olympic past had on your career?
I define myself more as an athlete rather than an Olympian – it represented a longer part of my life. At the age of 13, I set my first national record and at 17, I was awarded a scholarship to become a student athlete at the University of Miami. That choice made me a pioneer because Luxembourg had not had a leading sports personality since Josy Barthel, the 1952 Olympic gold medal winner in the 1,500 metres (and later a government minister). I became the focus of Luxembourg’s media throughout my sporting career. I then managed to leverage that status to enable me to become a political activist. From an early age, my momentum has defined me and enabled to re-invent myself. I was the youngest mother ever elected to the Chamber of Deputies, and I have always sought to represent the interests of young and single mothers in my five terms as a member of parliament.
« From an early age, my momentum has defined me and enabled to re-invent myself. »
What are Luxembourg’s biggest challenges over the next 10 years?
Luxembourg has always been a world champion at accepting foreigners and make them feel at home. However, the next wave of immigration will require a greater focus on human rights and gender equality, and these factors will have to play a major role in policy-making. Language is also a key component of this development – I hope people establishing themselves in Luxembourg will do everything possible to learn Luxembourgish, while on our side, we will do whatever it takes to facilitate the process. Secondly, with 10,000 people moving to Luxembourg every year, the challenge is to implement effective policies that enable the country to grow and maintain its excellent standard of living in terms of housing, mobility, health, pensions and social security.
How has the CSV digested the last election, and how is it preparing for the next one?
I can forgive, but I can’t forget. During the last election, we lost three seats but still held a clear majority. Clearly, people were hoping for a CSV-DP coalition, and we thought the DP would have joined forces with us. It was not the case, so we established ourselves as a strong force in opposition, and I can currently testify to strong backing for our party. Its renewal is being driven by young members who are helping us to craft forward-looking policies. Twenty years ago, I was the youngest member of parliament, and I continue to welcome diversity in our party, whether in gender, age or education. For the upcoming election, everyone is working hard on the ground, and I am convinced that the renewal young people have brought to the CSV will play a decisive role in the outcome.