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A day in the life of an MEP

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.

Paunova - Juncker

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…

Last year, we featured a few pieces from MEP’s in our ‘A Day in the life of…’ series and this week, Adam Terry – Political Officer to Anneliese Dodds MEP at the European Parliament, gives his insight into life as an MEP’s assistant.

Describe a typical day in the life of an MEP’s assistant, you say?  It’s probably best to start off by saying that there is no such thing.  For a start, which day of the week is it?  If it’s a Monday, then there might be a bit of time in the morning to catch my breath and focus on some longer-term projects.  If it’s a Tuesday or a Wednesday, I’ll be lucky to find five minutes to grab a much-needed coffee.  And then what type of week is it?  A plenary week in Strasbourg, a policy-heavy Committee week or a politics-heavy Group week?  All of these things will shape what kind of day I’m about to have – and that’s without the unexpected impact of Harold Macmillan’s famous “events, dear boy, events”.  For argument’s sake, let’s pick a Tuesday in Committee week…

08.30: I’ll do my best to get in before the full madness of the day has begun, to go through press round-up emails and keep an eye out for developments in the areas my MEP is most interested in.  For Anneliese, that means the latest on tax avoidance and evasion, fixing the financial system post-crisis, and (no doubt for every Brit in the Parliament at the moment…) the UK referendum debate.

09.00: Time to head down to the ECON Committee room and see what’s happening.  It could be a hearing with a Commissioner, central bank governor or another economics celebrity.  If Anneliese has speaking time, I will have made sure to provide her with the facts and figures she needs to ask a clear, concise question and (hopefully) get a clear, concise answer back!

12.30: Time for a lunch meeting with stakeholders.  Whatever Anneliese is working on, she will want to be aware of what all the major interested parties have to say about it.  She will want to hear a broad range of opinions – from civil society and NGOs, from her constituents, from government and regulators, and from industry – to ensure she is as well-informed as possible.  I’ll make sure she is well-briefed ahead of the meeting, and keep track of how we might need to follow up.

14.00: A chance to sit at my desk.  The blessing and the curse of the smartphone means I’m able to keep an eye on emails throughout the day, but it’s nice to have a moment in front of my computer to look properly at what’s come in.  I’ll get a chance to catch up on some ECON work and to help the team in the UK answer some of the many thousands of emails Anneliese receives from her constituents.  In the meantime, it will be my colleagues’ turn to staff Anneliese – perhaps supporting her in her role as Chair of the Delegation to Montenegro, or working up a press release or lines to take for an upcoming interview.

15.00: Before too long, it’s back to the Committee room – this time for an exchange of views on one of the many pieces of legislation that pass through the ECON Committee.  If it’s a report where Anneliese is rapporteur or shadow, I’ll have made sure to find out as much as I can in advance about the other groups’ positions and the areas where we might be able to compromise.  The aim is always a report that reflects our S&D values, while gathering enough support from other groups in order to pass that crucial vote.

18.30: Back to the desk and a chance to catch up on everything that has come up during the day, and to start scribbling tomorrow’s to do list.  I’ll look back on today’s to do list, and if it’s been a good day a fair chunk of it will be satisfyingly crossed off in red pen.  If life has thrown a few too many surprises at me, then a lot of today’s list will get transferred straight over to tomorrow’s…

19.30: Time to head home, after a long day which nevertheless seems to have flown by.  There’s certainly no watching the clock in this job.  As I close the door to our office, Anneliese will still be in hers, typing away and preparing to go and give a speech at an event somewhere else.  There are three of us who work for her in Brussels, and we all work flat-out to do so.  How she manages to do everything that’s asked of her, on her own, is beyond me…

MD2Martina Dlabajová is an MEP from the Czech Republic. She is a member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and successfully stood as a non-party candidate for the ANO 2011 movement. She is also the vice-chair on the Committee for Budgetary Control.

Do you ever wonder what a day in the life of an MEP might look like? First, being an MEP means that you have to adjust to a hectic lifestyle. There are no fixed working hours and your duties simply do not end once you leave the office. As an elected person you become a public figure who is always in demand. The daily life is packed with a series of meetings and events and you barely get some rest or free time. On the other hand, every day is different and often full of surprises…

6.30 a.m. – Reveille! While opening my eyes a basic question flashes first through my head: “Where am I today? Brussels, Strasbourg, Zlín or Udine?” No matter where I am or what I do, just like any other woman, I feel it is important to look good. Based on my daily agenda, I choose between heels or sneakers, dress or trousers, handbag or suitcase. The latter, in case I need to run to the airport, right after work!

7.30 a.m. – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Who knows when I will get another meal and a lot of energy is always needed, especially during the busy day of an MEP. Sometimes we organize a working breakfast together with my colleagues from our political group or with other Czech MEPs. It is time to discuss many important issues within our parliamentary work.

8.30 a.m. – Another busy working day full of meetings starts. Checkpoint: my office and short consultation with my team about the weekly agenda. Every minute matters, everything must be under control!

9.00 a.m. – It is usually time for Committee meetings. Depending on the week, they usually last all day long. Being a rapporteur on my recently adopted report on “Creating a competitive EU labour market” requires intense work. A lot of preparation, analysis and negotiations and finally voting! Voting is the daily gym of an MEP – hands up and down….thumbs up… and down….

…Emails, emails, emails…keep coming every minute. I wonder how MEPs used to live without mobile phones in their hand?! No matter where I am, I always have my “little office” with me.

On the way back from meetings, I give a quick interview to a Czech radio station and Italian TV. In English, Czech or Italian… trying not to mix these languages up! Fortunately, I learned to formulate my thoughts into short sentences. ‘Brevity is the sister of talent‘.

Flash news from the Czech Republic: my project of motivational traineeships for young people “PročByNe?” (WhyNot?) is running at full speed. While reading through the blog post in a Czech version of ELLE magazine from one of our interns, I start to think about the next traineeship offer. Motivation and young energy, that’s what I fully support!

3.00 p.m. – Back again to politics! As a Vice-Chair of the Committee on Budgetary Control I have to arrange important meetings with Commissioners and auditors. In the meantime I just manage to drink one small coffee. And two meetings regarding youth unemployment and support for SMEs are still ahead!

8.00 p.m. – Business dinner, finally! The opportunity to debate on interesting topics while enjoying a nice meal. Restaurants in Brussels offer a wide range of options. Italian cuisine is my favourite one!

10.00 p.m. – Going back home. On foot. It is the perfect opportunity to clear my mind. And to get all my ideas for the next day sorted. Before going to bed, I quickly scan all necessary documents for tomorrow’s meetings. I send some last replies to the emails of my staff….

I fall asleep…Ready for another challenging day to come!

Martina Dlabajová, Czech MEP

Brando Benifei

Brando Benifei is a Member of the European Parliament for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the youngest within the party. In June, we will be hosting  our Annual Young Professional’s Visit to Strasbourg, where you will have the chance to meet and interact with a number of MEPs. For the full programme and more information on registrations, please click here.

Only one year has passed by since my election as a Member of the European Parliament, and yet it seems like lifetime. The daily life of a MEP is a sequence of extremely concentrated events that leave little if any space for free time, although from the outside we are often perceived by the public as freeloaders who don’t work much.Actually, the perception of time here is completely different from the outside world: a single day can be so long that we have the impression a whole week has passed by.

A typical day in Brussels starts very early, as several organisations tend to make use even of breakfast time to organise debates and/or board meetings in the Parliament. Then, depending on the weekday, it is one-to-one meetings with stakeholders from the different policy areas that I cover with my parliamentary work (mostly employment and foreign affairs). I think it is my duty to listen to as many different points of view as possible, in order to be able to pursue my activity in an informed way. During such days, there is not even time for a proper lunch, so I quickly grab a yogurt and a coffee between meetings

Of course, a very important part of my everyday job at the EP is Committee work. When the meetings take place, they usually last the whole day long, plus a preparatory meeting for our Group members in it. I follow some reports closely on behalf of the S&D Group. These require intense work to negotiate among different positions existing among different Groups but also within the same one. It is a very delicate job, and it is where compromises are reached that can allow for a smoother legislation process to move forward. As you can imagine, these require a lot of preparations, we study all the documents carefully and draft possible amendments to improve the text. And yet, it can be an extremely interesting and rewarding aspect of our political life.

On the week before the plenary session, we work a lot on polishing the Group’s position towards every single item on the Strasbourg agenda. If there is still time, I still try to participate to a number of interesting conferences and seminars, organized by both MEPs and NGOs/think tanks from outside the Parliament. I organised quite a few of them myself. I believe us parliamentarians need to always be up-to-date on the hottest topics, engage in public debates and never give our knowledge for granted.

The evening often starts with networking receptions, but it does not end there, as I go back to my office and continue working until late, mostly to keep up with the great number of daily requests I receive by email from the “Eurobubble” as well as, and I would say most importantly, from my constituency. I am firmly convinced we should never neglect our relationship with the citizens. After all, it is them who are our “bosses”.

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