The New Wave: The Influencer Fidias Panayiotou on the path from social media to the European Parliament

От Тодор Драганов Тодор Драганов Международен редактор

The past European elections gave birth to a new phenomenon - politics has moved to social platforms - YouTube, tik-tok and Facebook. One of the most interesting examples is from Cyprus. Influencer Fidias Panayiotou, 24, will be one of the country's six representatives in the European Parliament. He is known for his popular videos, his interesting initiatives and his millions of followers. Here is what he told exclusively to the international editor of Euronews Bulgaria, Todor Draganov:

Hello, Fidias. First of all, congratulations on becoming a member of the European Parliament. My first question is, has the euphoria of your victory passed? How do I feel about my victory?

For me, feeling is not very interesting. I'm very happy that this happened personally, but I'm more excited about the big picture.

This gives a message about new politics in the world. For the first time with my candidacy, and with me actually getting elected, as I got the most votes that a candidate in my country got, we see that maybe the future of democracy is something different than we have now. Because we just use social media, with the power of social media, and saying the truth using TikTok, using live streams, using podcasts to spread the message of the campaign. And I think it's a big revolution in politics, and we're going to see more independence, because I was an independent with no party, achieving this in the future. And I felt a beautiful democracy, a more direct democracy, that the people have actually a saying. They were commenting, they were making videos, and it was more like not the TV and the people. It was like from the people to the people. It was very beautiful, and I'm excited about that. I feel very good about that, about getting elected. It's like another whole thing that happened in my life.

But actually, were you surprised by the result of these elections?

Well, yes, to be honest, I was very surprised. Because the most votes that an independent ever got in these specific elections in my country, it was 2,000. And we got 71,000.

So I was not expecting this. And also the polls, like two or three weeks ago, before the elections, they were showing us that we don't have a chance of getting elected.

And they were showing us to have 2%, 3% of the votes of the whole country. And the outcome was 20% of the votes of the whole country, which that blew my mind.

I didn't expect it as well. But I don't know. It shows something very interesting, something very beautiful. And I hope that I have a responsibility now as a member of the European Parliament now. Because if I want this to continue, other people to get the example and run as an independent. And use social media to spread their message and their voice around.

I think I need to be the best person that ever got the position for other people to follow.

And to not close this road that we opened with me getting elected.

Okay, but what are your main goals for your mandate for the next five years? What do you want to achieve and where on the political spectrum do you place yourself? Left, right or center?

Yeah, and this will amaze some people because then you're going to get a glimpse of why I got elected here in Cyprus. So the answer to these political questions that you are asking me that I was given here in Cyprus as well, what I'm going to do when I will get elected.

I was saying, I don't know. I don't know. You need to know the data to make a decision and to have a plan. First of all, I need to go there and see the data and then I will develop a plan as I go. And this is how we do business because I'm a successful YouTuber. I have 10 people in my team and we figure things as we go. So I said this.

And it was a big innovation. I also said some things. I know a lot about the educational system.

I think that the school system is killing creativity because it killed my creativity when I was at school. And now I discovered the beauty of history. But when I was younger, the school made me hate history. So I was saying these types of things for you to understand what I was saying. Where I am in the political spectrum, left or right and all this stuff.

What I was saying as well here and what's the truth is I don't want to put myself in a box.

I agree with some stuff with the right. I agree some stuff with the left.

And I think putting yourself in a box, I don't think everyone in the political, I don't say it's not helpful to have other people to do it. But not everyone in the political spectrum should put I'm right, left or I'm center. Like this is a box that you are put in. We're going to see whatever situation we have in front of us. We're going to examine. We're going to see. We have a war in Ukraine and we have to see how are we going to solve it? This is different data.

So we're going to examine every situation like with the current data. And then we're going to decide.

But is there a political family that you associate, are you associating with the Socialists and Democrats or the EPP or other party in the European Parliament or you're gonna be a non-aligned member of Parliament?

I am open to explore some options but most likely I will be a non-aligned independent as far as I know but there is some benefits in getting in teams you can do a bit more stuff but as I said I will go. I have soon meetings with the Green Party with the Renew Party so I'm just going to explore the opportunities and I'm going to see the data and then decide this is what businessmen are doing and they're very effective they're making billions around the world so I want to use kind of the regular business methods to do politics. I don't know maybe maybe it will be effective

Actually, you are quite young, you are 24 years old, and your opinion actually is quite important on a few topics. The first one of them is what's your opinion on the economy of the EU and how can all those problems that we have right now, how can they be fixed? Do you see a possible way for ending of the war in Ukraine in the next five years? And what's your opinion about the Green Deal that's actually quite made, how can I say it, different reactions that we have had from different parties, politicians and countries? What are your opinions on these topics?

People might think that I'm avoiding these questions, but you asked me three important questions. So each question needs to be examined. We cannot answer it. Five minutes, because it's not that simple to solve the war in Ukraine, because it needs to analyze. Maybe in a two, three hour podcast, we can sit down and I can explain you my position and what I think needs to be done. But that's not, I don't think this is how, I think this is how, I don't think this is how politics should be done. I think we should spread, explain, and also some stuff, I need to learn a lot more stuff. So I'm, like you said, I'm there. I'm one of the youngest people in the parliament, so I need a lot of study. And this is what I said to the people in my country.

I don't know a lot. I will learn. I will improve. I improved so far in my career, and I will learn and all this stuff. So all these topics, now that I'm going to come in the European parliament, I'm going to surround myself with the right people, and I'm going to develop opinions slowly, slowly on each topic.

You understand now, I don't know, maybe you understand, this is kind of the innovation with the campaign. Like, we're just saying the truth. People, like, because a lot of politicians, they are trying to pass you the agendas of the parties, they are trying to pass you what they believe, they have personal interests, but I'm just honest. I need to study a bit more about the topic.

We don't need to know everything. We don't need to know everything about everything. We just need to have the right partners around us and we need to know two or three topics to change things. And on the other stuff, we need to study and learn. So I have a lot of improvement to do as well.

Yes, I know, but honesty is on the one hand. On the other hand, we have to have, you know, political solutions to those conflicts. That's why we ask you that question and that's why we want to know your opinion on something like how can we develop the economy of Europe that, you know, we had problems in the last years and that few people criticized it and the war in Ukraine, you know, has been one of the biggest conflicts in recent history. And also the Green Deal. Yes, I know that you're young. Yes, I know that we can, that you will improve.

My goal is to get to the place in Europe, in the European Parliament, that will talk about the educational system. This is something that I know. This is something I have good practice. And all this stuff, I need to develop a lot more my positions and learn a lot of stuff about this stuff. And I think it's not rocket science. But also I think to touch a bit on the topics, not to avoid completely the questions. So I think we suck in Europe about businesses. Where did you learn? We didn't develop the next Facebook. We didn't develop the next chat GPT. All the countries, China and United States, they are first in those technologies. And we are last. So we need to have a good environment for companies to thrive. So we need to help. Anyway. But helping is like, we need to find the right thing, because you might… It seems that you will help, but it will… You have the right position, but how you are going to help, and you are not going to do more damage with laws and regulations. It's like a long thing. So it needs a lot more discussion. So in an interview of 10 minutes, it's difficult to explore this thing. That's why I'm avoiding to go a bit deeper.

Just a second, you mentioned China. What do you think about the EU and China trade relationship? As we know, right now the EU is trying to raise the taxes for importing Chinese electric vehicles and there are other things and there is quite a little bit of tension between Europe and China right now. What do you think? And can you, by yourself or by some people, would you help rebuild the Chinese-EU, how can I say it, relations?

One of my goals is to actually, because as we see the GDPs of countries, China is rising. It's a matter of time when it will become the biggest power in the world.

So if it's not yet, maybe economic power is going to rise probably. The statistics are saying if nothing happens above the United States. So I think it's very important to have a relationship with China. Maybe one of the most important things as European Union. And one of my goals when I go to the parliament is to be in the team that goes and build relationships with China. So that's one of the things that I'm really, really interested about. So yeah, I fully support the relationships with China, fully.

One of the last questions that I'm gonna ask you is, you have probably been asked a lot that but will your work continue simultaneously with that the position of you being MEP and will you be still an influencer who is working as an MEP or will you be an MEP whose hobby is being an influencer and a social media star?

That's a very interesting question I got asked a lot yes like you said here in my country Cyprus and I was saying: Guys because we were able to achieve a lot with social media here in Cyprus we changed a lot of things in politics with just tik-tok and YouTube and my voice basically. So we want this power to be used to do stuff in Europe and to do give value as well. I think I will be maybe a full-time MEP and a part-time youtuber but I don't want to stop it because I don't think it's to benefit either to Europe either to me and either to the people of Cyprus. I don't want to stop it because it would be a useful tool to use.

And one last question, which is a bit on the spectrum of entertainment. How does it feel like to hug 99 celebrities and the last one, Elon Musk?

You know, Elon Musk has been a hero of mine since I was younger. So to be able to meet him and hug him and spend 20 minutes with him, it was beautiful. And then I was nobody, I was not a member of the European Parliament back then. So it felt very good to answer your question.

Thank you very much for your time. And we hope we see you in five years so that you can tell us about everything you've done in the European Parliament.

It's a pleasure. I love you people.