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A day in the life of an MEP

Seb Dance has been an MEP since 2014 and is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Development.

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Days at the Parliament can start with a breakfast meeting, a committee-related site visit or a press interview. Then it will often be straight to a meeting of my group, the Socialists and Democrats, before catching up with my Brussels staff about my diary and issues coming up before the Parliament.

Quite a lot of my time is spent on correspondence with constituents via traditional means as well as Twitter. Tweeting thoughts and developments – most of which are concerned with Brexit – are a good way of communicating in real-time what I am up to.

I am a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Development committees, and during committee weeks in Brussels, much of my time will be spent in these meetings. The two committees investigate a range of issues, and I recently acted as the co-ordinator for the Socialist and Democrat Group on the committee of inquiry into the diesel emissions scandal, the report on which came after a year of detailed investigations.

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This week has been a ‘Strasbourg’ or plenary week and my primary area of concern is an oral question on the situation facing the LGBTI community in Chechnya, which happened to occur the day before the International Day Against Homophobia. As well as my committee roles, I am also the European Parliamentary Labour Party’s Spokesperson on LGBTI issues. It was very pleasing to see the Commission and European External Action Service speak out so strongly against the atrocities in Chechnya and send a strong message that the EU will not stand idly by whilst the persecution of LGBTI communities continues.

Evenings in Brussels might involve meeting parliamentary colleagues, to discuss issues and upcoming business over dinner, or speaking to groups about the future of the UK in Europe. If I’m back at home, a typical evening is spent visiting one of the seventy-three Constituency Labour Parties in London, speaking to them about my work in the European Parliament and discussing the latest developments in the post-referendum relations between the EU and UK government.

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Fridays back in London allow me the chance to meet with constituents and to speak to groups across the city, many of whom are concerned about what exactly Brexit will mean for business, industry and citizenship rights. Londoners voted decisively to remain in the referendum last year, and much of my time back home is spent focusing on ensuring those voices are heard over the next two years, fighting to retain our vital access to the Single Market and Customs Union, and calling for the guarantee of the existing rights of EU citizens in the UK.

The UK might be heading out of the European Union, but until that day comes, we must continue to play a full role in the affairs of the Union, including here at the Parliament. To that end, the days of an MEP from the British delegation remain as busy as ever.

To learn more about Seb Dance’s work visit his website: http://www.sebdance.co.uk/
Or follow him on social media: https://twitter.com/SebDance
https://www.facebook.com/SebastianDance

Tom Vandendelaere has been an MEP since November 2014. He is a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Substitute and Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Substitute.

 

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Today, the 26th of April, has only one thing in common with yesterday, the 25th of April and that is the name of the month. Every day is different since there are other opportunities to take and pitfalls to avoid. I have certainly taken on one opportunity today namely, writing this blog post.

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The day starts at 5h45, after hitting the snooze button a couple of times followed by a refreshing shower. My daily morning routine demands a jam sandwich with each newspaper I read and, luckily for me, there are only three of them. To read newspapers enables me to look at the same facts from different angles and make a distinction between hard facts and interpretations. However, there is no time to lose because I have to take the car to Bruges and the 7h00 train to Brussels to the office at the European Parliament Today’s  hot topic: Brexit and its effect on Belgium and the Flemish Region. In my opinion, we have to value this trade relationship that we have with the UK but tough negotiations do not exclude a soft Brexit. If everything is properly negotiated with mutual respect for each other, future trade between the EU and UK can be secured as is important for SMEs in both regions.

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When arriving at the office at 8h30, I get down to work immediately by having a meeting with my parliamentary assistants in order to coordinate the work we are doing and to run through the agenda of the day. If I am talking about the work we are doing this can often be related to one of the committees of which I am a member. It is always difficult to decide to which committee to go first, as most committees have overlapping schedules, but nevertheless I have to make a choice.

The first one out of three is the ECON committee which starts at 09h30. A couple of issues are discussed of which passporting rights can be interesting for the UK. It enables financial institutions in an EU-member state to do business in another member state of the European Union without needing further authorization. The upcoming Brexit could invoke that many firms, especially international banks, leave the UK in order to retain their passporting rights and the consequent access to the common market. In the meantime the AGRI committee is already at full speed. Agricultural policy is close to my heart since I was born in one of the most agriculture-oriented regions in Europe. West Flanders, has clearly left its mark. Agriculture still accounts for nearly 40 percent of the budget of the European Union. In the case of the UK we can think about the agricultural subsidies: 3.3 billion euro a year. If these farmers want to remain competitive than these subsidies are definitely needed to lower the production costs.

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After a chaotic morning I try to foresee half an hour of sports in my agenda. Just before lunch I like to do some exercises in the gym at the European Parliament. Such moments are rare, unfortunately. At 12h00 I have a lunch meeting with a journalist of a business newspaper who wanted to know my opinion about the position of the European Central Bank, Greece, Prospectus and Brexit.

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At 14h00 I rush to the EMPL committee. Today’s discussion is about the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Commission has the intention to initiate a proposal concerning the social rights of EU citizens because of the focus, in the last decade, on economic and monetary aspects. It concerns i.a the legal regulation and status of new forms of work (e.g. the couriers of Deliveroo) and the opportunities of new technologies within the working environment. Coincidentally, the publication day of this blog spot, 1 May, is the day Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum is remembered, a milestone in the recognition of the importance of the employee’s rights.

The Brexit working group of the EPP is scheduled at 15h30 and deals with the coordination of viewpoints within the EPP Group. This is necessary because if we want a successful negotiation in the future, it is important to act as unified as possible.

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As an MEP I have to deal with lobbyists almost on a daily basis. And today is not an exception to the rule. At 16h30 I have a meeting with a lobbyist who represents the interest of employers within the Flemish Region. She wanted to know more about the new prospectus regulation. This regulation aims to ease the access to financial resources for small and medium-sized enterprises, a topic dear to British investors and bankers alike. It should become easier and cheaper to attract candidate-investors.

After taking some time to meet up with a Belgian visitor group, I went back to the office for a short interview by telephone about the abolishment of the roaming costs after the 15th of June 2017. In the context of the wholesale roaming market I addressed the advantages both for consumers and businesses within the EU.

I leave the office at 18h30, after discussing some practical issues with my assistants and take the train back to my hometown. When finally arriving at home there is hardly any time left for dinner because I have to go to a local entrepreneurial event at 20h30. The event is about the policies that are needed to preserve the future of local entrepreneurship. Where can the EU make a difference?

Eventually I am off to bed at 23h00 but before this happens I treat myself with a pint of my favourite Belgian beer: Rodenbach.

To learn more about Tom’s work visit his website: http://www.eutom.eu/ or follow his twitter: https://twitter.com/tomvdkendelaere

Anneleen Van Bossuyt MEP banner

Anneleen Van Bossuyt has been an MEP since 2015 and is a member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy

Describing a typical day in the life of an MEP, is actually an impossible task. And that is not a bad thing, on the contrary. Of course, I need to schedule and plan things weeks ahead, but the variety of things I get to do makes working in the parliament interesting and fun. It’s not a job, it’s an experience.

That said, let’s now describe, not ‘a typical day in the parliament’, but ‘one day in the parliament’.

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I usually wake up around 6 AM and check my e-mails. As a Flemish MEP, I have the privilege of living and working in my own country, near my family and friends. The downside is that my day involves quite some commuting. So, after getting myself ready for work, I wake up my son and daughter and prepare their breakfast. Depending on my schedule, I or a friend of the family takes them to school. Then I take the train from the beautiful city of Flanders, my hometown Ghent, to Brussels. Arriving in Brussels half an hour later, I ride my bike to the Parliament.

Between 8 AM and 9 AM I am in the office where I check some more e-mails, handle the most pressing matters and consult my assistants about what’s on today’s schedule. Concretely this means preparing my speaking note for the IMCO committee in the afternoon, discussing at which events to speak, preparing my intervention for tomorrow’s debate on the Brexit and finally deciding on which amendments to table in order to change some committee proposals for the better etc.

Time is running fast and by 10 AM, I have scheduled the first meetings with lobbyists. I am meeting a representative of DPHL on the cross-border parcel delivery file, another person on the Energy Efficiency directive, as well as someone on the e-service card file, three files among many others, which I am responsible for as a (shadow) rapporteur. To the public, lobbyists often have a negative connotation. However, they are of value to us as they can often provide me with expert knowledge and show me the practical consequences of some decisions we make on European level.

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At 11.30 AM I am quickly off to the event that I am hosting on Horizon 2020: ‘Towards a more business friendly horizon 2020: Recommendations for the European Commission’.  As shadow-rapporteur on the file, I have consulted several companies, SMEs, universities and research facilities over the past few weeks. This gave us a very clear idea of the way in which the program needs to be changed and all of the work culminated in today’s event where I presented 10 recommendations to Commissioner Moedas to make H2020 funding more accessible to companies. With over 70 participants present from across all sectors, I am happy to say that the event was a success!

By 13.30 PM I am finally able to grab a sandwich and walk back to the office. I have some time to relax and chat with my colleagues. By 14 PM I am fully recharged to give an interview to a student, who is doing a PhD on the Europeanization of national political parties. As former assistant at the European Law Department of Ghent University, I am always happy to help students with their final dissertations.

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After the interview, I hurry to one of the conference rooms to welcome some of my constituents in the European Parliament. Today, people often look upon the European Union as an alien non-transparent institution, making rules only for itself without taking into account the actual citizens of the Member States. For this reason, I regularly invite schools, organisations and local constituents to the parliament to tell them about who I am and what I do. This is my way of trying to make people understand what the European Union is, what it can do better and what it should stop doing.

At 15 PM a joint ITRE and IMCO committee (I am member of both committees) is taking place on ‘online platforms and the digital single market’, which is very topical at the moment: it is important not to create new boundaries which would prevent the creation of new platforms, but at the same time the classic sectors should be respected. Immediately after this topic is closed, the regular IMCO committee starts, where I am speaking about parcel delivery and the European Accessibility Act.

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I am ending my day in Brussels with a shadow meeting on the geoblocking file, an intense meeting where the different political groups are trying to reach a compromise on different detailed aspects of the file.

By 18.30 PM I can finally commute back home, where I am just in time to spend some time with my children before sending them off to bed. To relax and forget the hectic workday, I work out on my cross trainer while, why not, replying to some more e-mails. By 23 PM I head off to bed for a good night’s sleep in preparation of a new day!

If you would like to learn more about Anneleen’s work visit her website http://www.anneleenvanbossuyt.eu/ or her twitter https://twitter.com/anneleen_vb?lang=en

Catherine Stihler has been an MEP since 1999 and is Vice-Chair on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection as well as a member of the Committee and the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Having been an MEP since 1999 and with two young children the hectic lifestyle of an MEP is something I am accustomed to.

I spend either three or four days a week in Brussels or Strasbourg and the rest of the week back home in Scotland; the structure of my day depends where I am.

Digital - media - Fb, Instagram - CA

During Brussels weeks, my days are a combination of committee meetings, political group meetings and discussions with visitors from national governments, NGO’s, academia, campaign groups and many other organisations.  The day usually starts at 9am with a breakfast meetings and ends around 10pm after an event, a dinner discussion or, on occasions, a social dinner with colleagues.

In Strasbourg my diary is usually at its busiest.  I am in meetings, working groups, giving speeches and observing debates from 8, and often do not leave the Parliament until after 10pm.  It is in Strasbourg that we vote as a Parliament on legislation, one of the most important aspects of our work.  As whip for the UK Labour delegation, Strasbourg weeks are particularly busy for me as I discuss our position on all the files to be voted on with my colleagues.

Constituency weeks vary greatly.  Representing the whole of Scotland means I travel a lot.  I do everything from discussing digital skills in the Highlands to speaking to school pupils in the Borders.  I also have huge amounts of paperwork to deal with in relation to inquiries from constituents and accounts for my office in Inverkeithing.

Re-elected as VC IMCO

Regardless of where I am, there is the matter of the emails I receive each day.  I receive so many meeting requests that I cannot accept them all so work with my team to prioritise those which are of particular relevance to Scotland.  I am Vice Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee as well as a substitute member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, both of which cover issues which really matter to the people of Scotland.

The work of the European Parliament is more relevant to the people of Scotland than many realise.  In my committees, we cover everything from the cost of using your mobile phone abroad to safety standards for gas appliances.  A major priority for me this parliamentary term is to see concrete action to end the digital divide

The life of an MEP is busy and never boring.  My diary fills up months in advance and one of the best parts of my job is working together with colleagues from across the EU as well as concerned constituents, industry representatives and national experts.

If you would like to learn more about Catherine’s work as an MEP visit her website here or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

We take a look into what a typical day of MEP Emilian Pavel from Romania looks like. Emilian has been an MEP since 2014 and is a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

I am a big promoter of supporting young people at the beginning at their professional lives

It has become a common place to say this, but being a politician is definitely not a nine-to-five job. Actually, being a politician, an elected member of the European Parliament, is not a job. Without any exaggeration, I see it as a mission.

It is my mission to represent in the best way I can, and with all my energy, my little corner of Europe, that I love so much. It is also my mission to contribute with as much as I can to further develop and strengthen the European project.

I am not only a politician. I am also a citizen and a father, and what we achieve for our common future is as important to me as to any other European citizen.

ep-2As an IT engineer, I love discussing how technology can improve our lives 

You have already found out, reading about other fellow MEPs activities, that there is no day resembling the other. For this reason, I appreciate very much my team’s assistance and input and I start my days by talking to them, over a tea or coffee, about our priorities and objectives.

The time of our meeting depends on whether I have to attend a working breakfast or workshop at 8 AM or not. Usually I do. Being a morning person, I enjoy those events very much.

I always arrive at the Parliament full of energy and ideas because I honestly love what I do and I truly believe that as a Member of the European Parliament, I have a fantastic environment to bring a big contribution to our society. I am passionate about how we can best create opportunities for young people, how we can promote the teaching of coding, for example, how we can fight for equal chances for both women and men, on how we can better help people get the skills they need for the future, as well as many other topics. As an IT engineer, I have a pragmatic and structured approach to these policies and to all my work.

ep-4With now the former President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz

After I meet my team, depending on what kind of week we are having in Brussels – those famous sessions, committees, groups, or mini plenary weeks marked with different colours on the calendar – I will focus my attention and energy on the goals that I have set for that day, and then for medium and long term.

Meeting people or organizations is very important to me. You learn a lot from listening to people and from asking the right questions. For this reason, I allocate time during the day, between a committee meeting and a seminar, to meet people that can offer a valuable input for the reports that I am working on. In addition, from time to time, I organize a hearing or a debate myself.

Then, there is also the part where that valuable input that I get needs to become valuable output from my side. I work a lot on reports on different topics. Amending a report might be a part of our work that is not very visible but it gives MEPs the opportunity to really bring their contribution to the process of building a better Europe for all of us.

ep-5EU and I, a competition for high school students, about the European values that I organize every year in Romania

It is already evening. Most of the times there is a conference or a working group to attend. By 8 or 9PM I try to evaluate my day, check my progress and prepare for the next, full and different day at the European Parliament. Before I go to sleep, around 11PM, there are always files to read, emails to write and yes, some reflection to do.

I love what I am doing, the people that I meet or work with and even if days are long and schedules busy, that mission that I was talking about gives me energy and motivation.

Finally, the sole purpose of all my activities in Brussels, Strasbourg or in my constituency during any given day is to help advance as much as I can our common project, a better and united Europe.

If you would like to learn more about Emilian’s work as an MEP visit his website: http://emilianpavel.ro/ [RO] or visit his facebook and twitter: https://twitter.com/PavelEmilian https://www.facebook.com/pavel.emilian

 

Eva Paunova is a Bulgarian MEP in the EPP and is a member of the IMCO committee. We caught up with her a couple of weeks ago for another insight into the day to day lives of MEPs at the European Parliament.

No day is ever the same for a MEP: I cannot sleepwalk through even a minute of it, I’m constantly challenged, constantly alert. It’s the greatest privilege of my job and definitely one of the reasons why I love doing it. Allow me to elaborate…

24th of May 2016

The 24th of May is a special day in Bulgarian culture – it commemorates the brothers Cyril and Methodius, whom we credit with inventing and popularising the Cyrillic alphabet, thus effectively transforming the Bulgarian state and society into a modern, Christian one (well, as modern as a society could possibly be in 884 A.D.). More generally, it is a celebration of Bulgarian culture and literature, and the teachers, lecturers, authors and journalists who preserve and expand it. It is also, more importantly, my parents’ 31st wedding anniversary, so not waking up early enough to be the first one to congratulate them in their own time zone was out of the question.

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Morning

8.00 – On the rare days I don’t need to rush to the office, my day starts with a home-made smoothie and a quick browse through the early news. Not today – at 8am I had already skyped in to a Bulgarian morning show, where I talked about the importance of quality education and introduced ‘Education Bulgaria 2030’ – a project I founded with a number of local and international stakeholders to tackle low educational achievement and increase opportunities for young people.

8.30 – An all too brief meeting with representatives of the 25 most promising Bulgarian start-ups, on a visit to the Parliament at my invitation. What a lovely, energising way to start the day – 25 bright and ambitious leaders, eager to see a more innovative and connected digital Europe.

9.‎00 – Fresh orange juice on the go (I know, I like to live on the edge!) and time for committee work – attended a discussion on some of the current files and voted on a report on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee.

11.00 – Possibly the highlight of my day! After having spent most of last year speaking about technology at over a hundred events all over Europe, my team and I finally managed to put together a high-level conference on‎ #Regulation4Innovation‎, the common European response to our changing digital landscape. In a two hour debate, moderated by Alex Barker, Brussels FT Bureau Chief, together with Commissioners Moedas and Vestager, the UK Minister for Europe David Lidington, and senior representatives of leading global companies (including Amazon, IBM, Spotify, Uber and CGSH), we ironed out our vision for a 21st century Europe – both business- and consumer-friendly, unencumbered by unnecessary regulation but still true to its values.

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Midday

Out of the conference and immediately into a series of short interviews with media outlets from around the continent, outlining the progress we’ve made. No time for lunch today, but still high on the buzz of seeing people come together to shape the future of the Union. I only really have light lunches anyway – a salad while going through e-mails at my desk or attending a lunch debate with colleagues – unless it happens to be a nice day (a regrettably rare occurrence), when my team and I get the chance to luxuriate in the sun, de-briefing on Place Lux.

14.00 – Arrived at Makerstown, where I opened a panel on Female Entrepreneurship. Shared my experience of running an office as a start-up and the importance of having a female role model. I also had a chance to walk around the Makers’ stands chaperoned by a drone and had the honour of shaking a 3D-printed robot’s hand (a bit clammy!). In the Parliament I work for better access to capital and support for entrepreneurs and innovators, so it is important for me to meet the Makers and have their input on how to make the process simpler, more helpful and effective.

15.00 – I literally had to run ‎back to the Parliament to not miss my speaking slot on the report on Contracts for Supply of Digital Content at the IMCO Committee. It is an important legislative dossier part of the Digital Single Market package, which I have been working on for a while.

17.00 – Took part in the SME Europe board meeting, planning our upcoming initiatives related to Industry 4.0 and the Investment Plan for Europe.

 

Evening

 

18.00 – Six month ago I was invited by Commissioner Thyssen to support the Pact for Youth initiative, a joint agreement by businesses and EU leaders to develop or consolidate partnerships in support of youth employability and inclusion. Today stakeholders from all sectors gathered to measure progress. The initiative is already operational all across Europe and aims to create over 100 000 opportunities for young people by 2020‎ – including quality internships, traineeships and entry-level jobs in a variety of fields.

 

20.00 – We continued the discussion over dinner with the Commissioner and 20 CEOs of multinational businesses and organisations, agreeing on the need for a skilled and well-trained workforce, as well as for a modern educational infrastructure attuned to the demands of the labour market. Currently there are 70 million Europeans who lack basic reading and writing skills; digital skills are yet to cross the 50% threshold and that’s hurting European competitiveness on the world stage. Initiatives such as Pact for Youth and Education Bulgaria 2030 are vital if we want to remain at the forefront of the digital revolution and the business opportunities it does and will continue to provide.

 

22.00 – En route home, going through emails and updating my Twitter and Facebook pages, so that I can dedicate the evening to spending some precious time with my fiancé (he doesn’t get to see much of me these days, but gets to enjoy my full attention when I’m there). When I don’t have an evening engagement we always try to go to the gym or go swimming together, or eat out at one of the few top culinary spots Brussels has to offer.

This week it’s the second installment of our Day in the Life of an MEP’s Assistant. Alina Totti, Assistant to Claudia Tapardel who is part of the S&D party.

Alina Totti

In trying to describe a typical day in the life of an MEP assistant I was presented with a very big challenge – having the actual time to sit down and write something. However, since I also want my two seconds of fame in the Eurobubble, I decided to make the time and offer a glimpse into my daily activities. I wondered, though, – how honest should I be in describing my relationship with this position? Because like the best relationships, it is both passionate and complicated…

To begin with a cliche: there is no such thing as a typical day at the parliament. On a quiet day I can finally read a report about the reduction of rail noise in Europe and reply to the couple of hundred unread emails in my inbox. Other days I spend 12 hours writing two speeches, a press release and meeting four lobby groups with four different ideas about the European Aviation Strategy. Both and many more combinations are possible.

9:00 (ish) –  By this time I am in the office, having already read the Politico Playbook and a couple of newsletters on the bus to work. This means I have the small talk covered for possible conferences later that day.

The first thing I do is write a list of my tasks for the day. This is probably one of the best tips I ever received in my professional life and also what I would recommend to anyone working on a lot of topics. Not only because it helps me structure my day and clears my mind, but also because ticking the boxes after completing a task is one of the most gratifying feelings. Normally, this list means replying to emails, reading a transport-related report and summarizing it for my MEP, writing a speech for an event back in Romania and meeting representatives from various organisations. On top of that, there is usually a TRAN committee meeting.

10:00 – Time for an unexpected meeting with another MEP who wishes to organise an event about the problem with seasonality in tourism. As my MEP is very passionate about the subject, we agree to co-host the debate in two months. That means we have to book a room, find speakers, make a poster and organise the catering. Thank God we have trainees.

11:00 – A committee meetings is where you get to see politics in motion, MEPs arguing with each other – politely of course – and also where you receive an unlimited number of water bottles. I sit in the back of the room and take notes together with the other assistants.

13:00 – I somehow manage to run to a conference about transport decarbonisation. I find this very useful for the files we are working on, plus I enjoy talking to people and taking cards. Someone asks me (again) if I am a trainee… I am quite jealous of the assistants who can grow a beard.

14:00 – Many afternoons are filled with stakeholder meetings – hotel associations, truck drivers unions etc. Some I attend with my MEP, others it is just me and my serious face. I must say I really enjoy this part of my job. You can learn a lot from people who have often spent years promoting a cause. As I listen to them I already start visualising amendments to the legislative proposals we are working on.

16:00 – Finally the time to write a speech. I love to go through my research, determine with my MEP the position we want to take and build a convincing story. The last speech I wrote was about what European integration brought to Romania.

18:00 – Still writing. I am wondering if anyone can hear that I have Nordic black metal playing in my headphones.

19:00 – There is no denying that I love my job, but there is a special feeling I get when I hear the sound of the computer shutting down. It is time to go home, but that doesn’t mean I don’t squeeze some files into my purse so I can (willingly) read more at home…

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