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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.

Richard CORBETT

By Richard Corbett, Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire & Humber, and Deputy Leader of the Labour MEPs. He is currently Vice-Chair of the European Movement in the UK

Do we want a free trade deal with the USA? In principle, Europe – and especially the UK – has a lot to gain from a partnership that lowers tariffs, reduces red tape and harmonises regulations. So free trade between the world’s biggest market and its opposite number ought to be a good thing for both sides. In principle.

But the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, is not all sweetness and light. Even as initial negotiations got underway between European and American trade representatives a couple of years ago, concerns began to surface in the public debate about what might be included in a future deal. Some of these concerns have proved unfounded. But others are genuine, serious, and need to be addressed:

  • First, we must not allow any future deal to undermine our existing standards of protection for workers, consumers and the environment. We’ve fought hard for high standards in Britain and across Europe. We mustn’t throw all this away in the name of a transatlantic deal.
  • Second, our vital public services must not be threatened. For instance, we don’t want a deal which makes privatisation any more likely, or any harder to reverse in a subsequent rethink. We’ve had some recent reassurance from negotiators on this, but that doesn’t cover all the bases and the devil will be in the detail.
  • Third, we must not allow special extra-judicial tribunals to undermine national legal systems. It is not necessary to add new ‘dispute settlement’ provisions to a deal like TTIP, where the partners already have mutually-recognised, well-functioning and independent courts. And it’s all very well to say that such “ISDS” clauses exist already in hundreds of similar agreements across the world.  It’s precisely the way they’ve operated that cause alarm, when people see, for instance, tobacco companies suing the Australian government for lost profits when the latter introduced plain packaging.

The debate in Britain

We British sometimes imagine that our reservations are unique. They aren’t. They are shared across Europe, and when I visited the US a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the fact that campaigners, unions, consumer organisations and politicians expressed exactly the same mix of hopes and fears as we hear at home about what a future trade deal might bring.

There is, though, one unusual twist to the debate here in Britain. Uniquely, we have a government that’s thrown its weight behind TTIP while simultaneously toying with abandoning its place in the EU.

This is a somewhat precarious position to try to cling to. Britain risks ending up with no influence on shaping the deal, and no separate deal of our own.

I have on my desk a glossy brochure sent to me last year by British American Business, an organisation that represents many transatlantic companies large and small. It paints a rosy picture of TTIP – one about which we might well have some reservations. But, like it or loathe it, right there on the brochure’s front page is a stark warning that a trade deal is:

 

“Available to the UK as part of the EU and would unlikely be replicable in any foreseeable negotiating context just between the UK and the US.”

From the American perspective, the UK is a small fish on the far side of a big pond; but Europe is a leviathan. There’s little chance of getting an acceptable separate deal for Britain. Only the EU-US talks offer the prospect of a deal, and one that meets our concerns.

Indeed, British voices are leading the way in highlighting concerns about regulatory standards, public services, and investor-state tribunals. It was British Labour MEPs who brokered an agreement a few weeks ago so that the Socialist & Democrat grouping in the European Parliament could adopt a firm line against extra-judicial dispute settlement measures. And negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic have to listen to us because when we’re united, we speak with a powerful voice in the European Parliament – and Parliament has the power to veto any transatlantic deal it’s not happy with.

I believe it’s vital that British priorities and values are reflected in any final agreement, not just because these priorities and values are in our own national interest, but because they’re right for Europe and the US too. But make no mistake: if a deal is going to happen, it will be on terms acceptable to Europe, with its collective negotiating clout. The simple choice Britain faces is whether to get stuck in and make this what we want – or just give up and back out.

And, of course, it’s not just TTIP. There are echoes here of the choice we face across a whole range of policy areas. The European Union is not going to go away just because a few British eurosceptics close their eyes and wish. We can be part of it, shaping it, amplifying our voice, influencing the world; or we can be outside it, wishing it wasn’t happening to us. Take your pick.

This piece was originally written for British Influence and has been republished with permission.

14-09-11 Zdechovsky portrait Bxl-8After spending last week in Strasbourg, Tomáš Zdechovský (pictured) recounts a day in his life of being an MEP. 

Many have a very distorted view on what Members of the European Parliament actually do. Since the beginning of my mandate, I have been trying to shed a bit of light on our work and I have encouraged citizens to interest themselves in what their representatives are paid for. On numerous occasions I have been trying to make an account of an ordinary day in a life of an MEP. But “an ordinary day” is quite an understatement. Indeed, now and then you find Members who are not so devoted to working habits but majority of my colleagues experience days like these often. Let me thus draw you a picture about one day in my life.

In Strasbourg I am usually staying in a hostel reminding me of a high school dormitory. It is located about two kilometres away from the Parliament, in the middle of an old Jewish quarter. Streets are lined with beautiful buildings and the air smells like old times. Today, I wake up at 6 a.m., early enough to have a shower and manage my e-mails. I go jogging sometimes, but not today, the rain discourages me. Instead, I walk to the Parliament on foot. When I am approaching my office, I see a colleague winking at me with amusement. I touch my face: my thick moustache is itching and I cannot wait for the Movember to end.

I start my working day with a French lesson with my lecturer Isabelle. Today I need to finish earlier because we have a work breakfast with other Czech MEPs, a regular event we organize every Tuesday during plenary session. We discuss the hot topic of division of Google and a case of Czech children that are held by Norwegian authorities – an issue that I take lot of interest in. At 9 a.m. I have a preparatory meeting with the budget committee. The debate on a new draft of budget 2015 is high on the agenda. An hour later, I am rushing to have a coffee with my colleagues and meanwhile I am collecting their signatures under an open letter addressing the issue of the children in Norway. Many of my colleagues express their support for me and regard it as a highly important act.

At 11 a.m., we are slowly moving to the hemicycle to listen to the speech of the Pope, who is attending the session today. He addresses the Parliament with an inspiring speech that moves several of us to tears. At one point, the voice of the Italian interpreter breaks. Later, I intend to have a quick lunch but it takes longer than expected since most of the staff have had the same idea. I arrived a few minutes later to the meeting with the regional director of Google; we have many important topics to discuss. After the meeting, I am heading back to the hemicycle to listen to the presentation of Federica Mogherini on recognition of Palestine. I intervene twice; engaging in this debate is of utmost importance.

When I get back to my office, it is already dark outside. I review incoming emails and peek on Facebook and Twitter. At 7 p.m. I am heading to a Group meeting which finishes two hours later. I and my team then go to a dinner, over which we discuss the agenda for the next day. We eventually get back to the hotel at 10.30 p.m. And there is still a full inbox awaiting me…

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