João Varela was born on 19th October 1974, in Santa Catharina (Cabo Verde). At the age of six he moved to the Netherlands.
After claiming his pre-university degree (in Holland known as the VWO diploma) back in 1993, he decided to study Economics at the Erasmus University in the city of Rotterdam. He graduated five years later. After that he followed a post-graduate Accountancy and Financial Supervision Act study programme. He ended up specialising in Accountability Marketing, the ‘cross section’ of Marketing and Accountancy.
For several organisations Varela designed innovative models dedicated to Accountability Marketing.
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João Varela began his professional career with L’Oréal taking on several management positions. He contributed to the worldwide launch of one of its most successful products (Studio Line “Out of Bed”). Also he was responsible for the popular shampoo brand Elvive. After spending a couple years with this French multinational, he was invited to join national politics.
From 23rd May 2002 to 30th November 2006 João Varela was member of the House of Representatives. As a 27-year old man, he was the youngest member indeed. He was in charge of Social Affairs and Employment, Finance, Economic Affairs, Senior Citizen Policy, Integration and Immigration Policy and Sports.
The Blok Committee
From December 2002 to September 2004 João Varela was member of the Temporary Integration Policy Research Committee (the Blok Committee). The job of this committee was to investigate the integration policy in the Netherlands in the past 30 years. At the final conclusion Varela took a minority viewpoint of marriage-related migration, which he had been wanting to restraint.
Varela has one legislative proposal to his name. Together with Staf Depla, in 2003 Varela submitted a draft bill seeking to simplify the reinsurance obligation for closed pension funds. He defended his proposal at the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament and in 2004, the bill was adopted unanimously.
In February 2003 Varela was the first Dutch politician to file a resolution for a specific amnesty for asylum seekers. He believed that those whose claims had not yet been definitely evaluated, who had been living in the Netherlands for at least five years and who had no criminal records, were entitled to a residence permit. This caused quite a stir among his former coalition parties (known as CDA and VVD).
However Varela was convinced that the humanity of this vulnerable group should never be overlooked and that these people deserved a fair chance. The resolution was adopted thanks to the support of left-winged parties.
Working visit to Denmark
Together with the Lower Chamber Committee of Social Affairs and Employment (in Dutch: SZW), in September 2004 Varela paid a working visit to Denmark. The purpose of this visit was to share experiences with the Danish policymakers and experts in the job market, occupational health and safety as well as reintegration. It turned out that the Danish authorities were making serious progress by choosing a combination of flexible dismissal and proactive job market policy, also known as Flexicurity.
Even in 2015 attention is still paid to this model in the Netherlands, for it could well be the answer to the question as to how economic growth can be ensured without jeopardising social security. In this field Denmark happens to be a pioneer across the European Union. It is particularly interesting to find out how this system will outlive economic downturns and whether it would pay off in the Netherlands as well.
During budget debates at parliament back in 2004, Varela put nuclear energy right back on the political agenda. He suggested counterbalancing rising energy consumption levels in the Netherlands by using the excess capacity of nuclear plants in France and importing their energy. It is how building new nuclear plants in the Netherlands would be uncalled for. Unfortunately this resolution did not make it.
On television Varela was asked whether or not he was fighting windmills just like Don Quichotte. Yet in 2010 nuclear energy was discussed again across the globe. In fact, in February 2010 even US president Barack Obama announced that nuclear energy had to make up for intensifying demand for energy in the future.
In the Lower House of Parliament, João Varela was also an ardent opponent of hard drugs, submitting a proposal in 2005 to perform drug tests in addition to blood alcohol level tests in traffic. Varela’s proposal capsized for lack of reliable drug tests on the market. Four years later Minister Eurlings (CDA) of Transport, Public Works and Water Management again suggested introducing drug tests in traffic.
As a sports spokesman, during budget debates of Health, Welfare and Sport (in Dutch: VWS) Varela repeatedly invited the state secretary to invest more money in professional sports, claiming that a healthy sports climate would without a doubt promote recreational sports.
Working visit to France
At the invitation of the French parliament (Assemblée Nationale Française), in December 2005 Varela paid a working visit to France with the Lower House Committee of Foreign Affairs (in Dutch: BuZa). One of the reasons for this visit were the riots that had been taking place in this country. At the time there had been some very violent confrontations between hundreds of originally North African rioters and the French police force. They had started on 27th October 2005 in Clichy-sous-Bois, a suburb of the city of Paris, reaching all of France eventually. After three weeks, by now a state of emergency had been proclaimed, violence diminished.
The possible cause of these riots is said to be the bad socioeconomic conditions these young people have to experience. The troublemakers themselves preferred to stick to media attention, rather than emphasise their deprived position in society.
During the working visit, discussions were also held about how the Dutch went about tackling foreign policy. It is because in November 2004 the Netherlands too experienced violent attacks by a group known as the Hofstadgroep, in the city of The Hague.
Working visit to Australia
In May 2006 and together with the Lower House Committee for Social Affairs and Employment (in Dutch: SZW), Varela paid yet another working visit, to Australia. The goal of this visit was to learn from how this country was dealing with reintegration.
Australia is known for its business approach to the reintegration affair. Reintegration companies are addressed once every three months to find out how many people they have actually helped resume work. The best performing reintegration company automatically joins a higher category and is accordingly rewarded by the Australian government. It is a never-ending race between companies, to get as many people as they can to join the job market once again.
The SZW committee visited various large cities. In Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney discussions were held with representatives of the Australia Ministry of Social Affairs, social partners, benefits agencies, employment agencies, reintegration companies, researchers and employers.
Working visit miscellaneous
As a member of parliament Varela was invited to different events on a regular basis. He visited nursing homes on many occasions, e.g. to attend a special day known as “Forget me not”. This day is dedicated to the elderly who need a touch of personal attention and caring in their daily existence. Varela also addressed this group at Christmas dinner.
In addition, he visited primary schools on national sports days and also to contribute to the National Reading Breakfast (reading out to schoolchildren).
Accountancy and marketing science
Since 2007 Varela has been working at an accountancy firm. After several years and based on accountancy and marketing science, he succeeded in increasing the awareness of a new field known as Accountability Marketing. He designed an innovative and pioneering loyalty concept for well-known primary brands, both nationally and internationally.
His very first innovation helped companies attract and hold on to more customers at considerably lower expenses.
To Varela, a former long jump champion, sports has a key role.
Sport has a major role in Varela’s life.
Varela is a Dutch long jump champion. He missed out on the gold medal, settling for silver instead.
Also because of his knee injuries Varela embraced a second career in sports, this time on the tennis court. In 2008 he was still playing in the Premier League.
Varela is also actively involved in sports at the administrative level. In 2006 he became tournament director of the international professional tennis tournament in Vlaardingen (the Netherlands). He invited Erica Terpstra, former female swimmer and chairman of the NOC/NSF, to the opening ceremony.
Medal of honour
In order to organise an international tennis event in this part of the Netherlands, in August 2006 Varela received a medal of honour from Bruinsma, the then mayor of the municipality of Vlaardingen.
This municipality believed that with this organisation, starting almost from scratch, Varela had launched an appealing international sports event in Vlaardingen, putting the latter on the international sports map just like that. Later on in the same year, Tennis Revu proclaimed the initiative one of the best organised sports events in 2006.
Varela previously joined several entertainment programmes.
Het Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal
(Dutch spelling test)
In 2002 Varela joined the Dutch spelling test on national television, hosted by Philip Freriks.
Sterrenslag (‘Shooting stars’)
In 2004 he also joined the “Team of Politicians” in a TV programme called Sterrenslag, competing against other Dutch celebrities.
Sterren Dansen op het IJs
(Stars dancing on ice)
In 2006 Eyeworks’ TV producer (Reinout Oerlemans) talked Varela into joining the popular show Sterren Dansen op het IJs. He was hilarious attracting millions of TV viewers. During Varela’s very first steps on ice he almost crashed out. The directors’ remarkable choice for clothing (greenery suit) was an outfit to remember.
71 Graden Noord
(71 degrees to the north)
In 2008 he decided not to join a Dutch television programme called 71 Graden Noord. Host Ernst-Paul Hasselbach died during the recordings of that very same edition.
Varela was also a guest on other TV shows, like those hosted by Paul de Leeuw.
And on several occasions he joined debate programmes like the Lagerhuis (literally: lower house), presented by Paul Witteman.
For many years Varela wrote weekly columns for the Financiële Telegraaf (Financial Telegraph), discussing all kinds of topical economic issues. He often advocated a more proactive role of future accountants, for he believed they should identify significant changes on time in the bonus culture, complicated financial products, shareholder value fixation, credit rating devaluation and last but not least managers’ lack of risk awareness of these changes. Accountants must be perfectly familiar with these developments, engaging external experts when the time is right. The complexity of financial products in particular and the risks involved are difficult to assess by the accountants.
In his columns Varela envisioned a new role for major telecom providers as the future banks. Varela thinks that eventually telephone numbers will replace traditional bank accounts.
In 2002 Esquire nominated Varela for “Best Dressed Dutchman.”
From an extensive list of nominees, this magazine’s readers came up with the following finalists:
The inevitable all-rounder Jort Kelder, entertainer Gordon, TV host Beau van Erven Dorens, politician João Varela, columnist Martin Bril, footballer player Pierre van Hooijdonk, actor Daan Schuurmans and the aspiring talent Johnny de Mol Jr.
Varela lost the battle to Johnny de Mol Jr. but it was a close call indeed.
Ambition by Sport
As the Ambassador of Ambition by Sport, for many years Varela invested best efforts in order to offer youth in the large cities of the Netherlands a fair opportunity. To this end he joined hands with former professional tennis player Raemon Sluiter, former NBA champion Francisco Elson and Olympic athlete Patrick van Luijk.