Dita Charanzová is a Member of the European Parliament for the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. MEP Charanzová is the Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. She is also a member of several delegations including; the Delegation to the Cariforum-EU Parliamentary Committee, Delegation for relations with Mercosur and the Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.
I am wondering which day to choose. Some days are more typical than others in my work programme. For instance Mondays, which mark the start of my working week in Brussels. My typical Monday would begin around six o’clock in the morning, when I need to pick out clothes for my two daughters for the entire upcoming week. It is necessary to think about every day of the week and every class, and not to give them too much room for creativity when, for example, they try to convince their Dad to let them wear a summer dress even though it is snowing outside. Everything is set, the piles of clothes are ready, the food I cooked during the weekend is stocked in the freezer and breakfast is on the table. It is time to wake up the girls and, if possible, to finish the morning ritual which implies taking them to school, waving and saying goodbye. And then off starts my regular journey to Brussels by car, which is roughly four hours long. I often get asked if this is not tiring, but I actually enjoy driving and I drive a lot (40 000 km each year). I have my favourite gas stations on the way to Brussels, where the staff greet me as an old acquaintance after three years. It has its charm. But as soon as I leave Strasbourg behind, my car transforms into a mobile office. My colleagues’ phones in Brussels and Prague start to ring as we need to plan for the whole week together. We set the agenda, go over any issues; basically if there is something we can do over the phone, we just do it. This way we do not waste time, which is difficult to find once I arrive to Brussels anyways.
A completely different situation occurs, of course, if I go directly to the Brussels or Strasbourg office and do not have to spend four hours in the car. I practice yoga in the morning, which is something I try not to skip. I pick up something for breakfast and go to the office- I’m usually there around 8 o’clock. I then briefly go over the agenda of the day with my team, which consists of three colleagues and a Czech trainee. I am the Vice-Chair of the IMCO Committee and a substitute of the INTA Committee, so I usually spend my mornings and afternoons at these two committee meetings. The scope of the issues discussed is very wide, however I try to cover those issues in a detailed manner nonetheless. It is not enough to just attend the committee meetings though, I also need to go through documents and related reports, opinions and conclusions from other colleagues. And there are a lot of documents to go through- counting the documents could often be done by the kilo rather than by individual pages. But we are not there yet in my day. I usually go over and study documents thoroughly only in the evening, or rather at night, once the work day calms down.
Now we are still in the European Parliament, where I have just skipped lunch, which I do not have time for in nine out of ten cases. Regular or irregular meetings with representatives of the Venezuelan opposition or with my Czech female MEP colleagues for example, could be an exception and I really enjoy having lunch with them. When we eat we leave our different political views in the cloakroom with our coats. However I am most happy if I can grab a soup or salad on my way so that I can at least eat something relatively healthy.
And then the afternoon marathon begins. That implies a series of meetings, formal and informal, which are also part of an MEP’s work. We also often meet with students from different parts of the Czech Republic, which I like to invite to visit the European Parliament both in Brussels and Strasbourg. Another part of my agenda that occupies me and certainly makes part of an MEP’s profile day consists of public appearances at conferences, panels, or round tables, including those which I organise myself. For that, we have to reserve at least a few minutes a day in the office to go over what needs to be done, who to contact or talk to. Previously, for example, I organised a conference on the future of the automotive industry in the EU. We brought together the main stakeholders, including the relevant Commissioner, representatives of the car industry and colleagues from the European Parliament. The conference also included a real Formula-E race car installation right in front of the European Parliament building in Brussels (I do not know which took more energy to organise; this year’s e-Formula installation or last year’s show of a self-driving car that was also in front of the Parliament).
Even in the evening I have several items in my agenda. Sometimes it’s a working dinner, sometimes a dinner at the Aspen Institute, where I am a Board member. From time to time, I take part in TV or radio debates for both Czech and foreign media. But if it is possible, I leave the public space at least around eight, and prefer to go home. When I am in Brussels and my agenda allows it, I like to meet my Czech friends working in Brussels that moved here years ago and stayed. When I’m in Strasbourg, I run home to get back to my family. I like to cook at home, which is one of the activities that helps me relax. My two girls appreciate my sweet pancakes the most, which do not require any great culinary creativity on one hand, but on the other they are able to consume so many that it allows me to relax for a while. And I’m glad I can partly compensate for those days when I am not at home with them. I sometimes have the feeling that my two daughters are gradually becoming hardline Eurosceptics. Whenever I mention anything related to my trips to Brussels, they are very clear with what they think about it.
The work of an MEP is incredibly fulfilling for me. I value every achievement and I can see how much work it requires. I must admit, however, that at the beginning of my mandate I could not imagine how demanding it would be and how much I would have to travel. My suitcase has become a part of my daily life.