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Like every autumn in Brussels, this one didn’t disappoint with regard to its packed schedule, and we would like to believe that we didn’t either!

We kicked off with the discussion on Cartel Enforcement: Current Practice and Updates where we learned that since February 2018, companies breaching antitrust regulations by taking part in cartels has resulted in hundreds of million in fines, while ¾ of cartel cases originate from leniency applications.

On a different note, Kate Kalutkiewicz updated our members on the state of play with regard to EU-US Trade Deals. A special emphasis was put on China and the current state of trade relations with the US, as an increasing threat of a trade war looms between both countries, plus we discussed the reform of the Dispute Settlement System in the WTO and the view of the US on the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA). More specific trade sectors were also examined, such as chemicals, aluminium and car company regulations.

We also hosted a panel debate on eHealth – Engendering Health Systems’ Sustainability. The positive impact that eHealth can have on EU member States’ Health Systems was stressed throughout the discussion between the panellists and the participants. A wider implementation of digital health across the EU would allow, amongst others, tremendous savings resulting from the use of mobile health applications. A better pooling of data at the EU level would also have huge benefits, reducing for instance the time to diagnose rare disease. The main issue in this field arises from data privacy, record linkage and a lack of incentives from both doctors and governments to use digital technologies.

Under the Future Relations Committee, the chamber organised three events, starting with the roundtable debate with legal industry and the UK Justice Minister on EU-UK Civil Judicial Cooperation, Lucy Frazer. At this event we had the opportunity to discuss how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has created many legal complications due to the intertwining of UK and EU law. It can be seen as one of the largest areas to negotiate in the agreement as companies wish for the legal protection to remain consistent, or at least to have a large enough transition period so that the adjustment is smooth. The second event saw Philip Rycroft, DExEU Permanent Secretary, give an Update of the UK EU Exit planning process, and finally we hosted the UK Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, who updated us on the current situation in the negotiation process.

Our last event in September was organised with our members Digital Together, who took part in the workshop Digital Movers and Consumers. The objective was to initiate the creation of a dialogue between digital businesses, non-digital businesses, consumer associations, policy makers and other stakeholders to ensure that all viewpoints are shared to help formulate appropriate future regulation and legislation in the digital space in Europe.

Just two days before a crucial Parliamentary vote, we hosted a debate on Single Use Plastics , where many concerns and issues for industry were raised, in particular the issue on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and its lack of clarity.

Our FDI Screening Mechanisms event kept our members informed, helping us to understand that the EU has no single Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) screening mechanism, but several states in the EU have their own screening mechanism, which are strongly related to national security.

Finally, to finish the month of October, we organised a discussion on eCommerce after Coty and beyond, during which we heard about the Coty decision, which saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that luxury good suppliers may prohibit the online sale of their goods by authorised retailers on third-party platform (such as Amazon) – a fascinating example of the intricacy of the enforcement of e-commerce rules.

If you want to learn more about our events, please visit our website, read our detailed event reports or join us at one in the future.

Bernada Cunj

Head of EU Events and Policy

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium

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”.

Philippe de Backer

Philippe de Backer is a Member of the European Parliament for Open VLD, and is part of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). In June, we will be hosting  our Annual 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.

What do members of the European parliament actually do all day? Indeed, it has become a rather frequent question when I talk to people who visit the parliament, or even close friends. Since the beginning of my term, I have been trying to shed a bit of light on my work and I have encouraged citizens to interest themselves in what their representatives are doing. I have even tried to make an account of an ordinary day in a life of an MEP. But “an ordinary day” is quite an understatement in European politics.

6.30 AM – The day starts early in my household. This is when I can have some time to myself and spend some quality time with my wife and daughter. I cherish these moments with them. Marie and Sophia bring so much joy to my life.

7 AM – It’s time to get ready for another busy day in the office and leave my house in Antwerp, the metropolis of Flanders.

9 AM – I’m arriving in Brussels, the first thing on my agenda are some appointments with public affairs people in the pharmaceutical sector. As a PhD in Biotechnology, I am mostly interested in innovation and bringing medicines to patients. Recently, I have focused on raising awareness about rare diseases and providing patients access to medicines for these.

11 AM – Time to work on the European Fund for Strategic Investments. We are trying to mobilise private investment in Europe, but the proposal of the European Commission needs some changes. As a general rule, this involves discussing with the staff, preparing documents and writing amendments.

1 PM – Lunch is usually a moment to reflect on some more long term projects. By attending lunches I get information about files I am not directly working on. Or I discuss strategy and political matters with my staff. This tends to be good for the atmosphere around the office and it keeps us all energetic and motivated for the remainder of the day.

2 PM – After lunch, I’m having an interview with Trends, a Belgian Magazine about the digital market and the application of E-call, an initiative to install a safety system in cars that automatically calls the emergency centre in case of a car accident.

3 PM – As I like to be ahead of the political agenda, I use this time to prepare myself for the rest of the coming weeks. Discussing speeches with the staff, reading papers and informing myself on anything that could come up suddenly so that I am prepared.

4 PM – Meeting with ALDE Group and the Commissioner Pierre Moscovici on Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxes and Customs. We had an interesting meeting on economic governance and better regulation of the European economic system.

6 PM – The day at the Parliament is over, but work is not! I have to attend a debate in Leuven University, the oldest in Belgium. During the journey, I take advantage to make some phone calls in the car and eat something quick.

8 PM – The debate is about to start and I’ll the chance to interact with students at university of KU Leuven. I always try to attend a lot of these events as I really enjoy a fun discussion where I can challenge the audience with bold and daring statements. At the same time, the students surprise me with their fresh and inspiring ideas.

11.30 PM – I’m finally back home and it’s time to recharge the batteries with my wife and my favourite TV show: House of Cards.

0.30 AM – Before going to sleep, I always try to read up on some files for the next day. The day in the life of an MEP is very intense and varied, so preparation and anticipation is key during those moments where you can have some time for yourself – which is not very often.

2 AM – Bedtime.

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