Entering my last year in secondary education I had the utmost pleasure of attending a week’s work experience with my South East Region constituency MEP, Diane James. The week’s work experience lasted from the Monday to the Thursday and was held in Strasbourg, France during the September Voting Week of the European Parliament.
The week kick-started with an introduction to both Ms. James and her accredited parliamentary assistant, Ms. Milossa. Work quickly got underway with an evening AFCO meeting beginning at 8pm, at which time the seats for the next European Elections in 2019 were being discussed. With lively debate, the meeting lasted a couple of hours, and provided a powerful insight into the logistics of such committee meetings and also the views held by the various MEPs.
Tuesday began with preparation for the votes; the central activity of the Strasbourg week. This included reading and understanding reports on varying subject matter, observing proposed amendments and organising votes on the voting list. Following this I attended a presentation on the work and logistics of the European Parliament. This was crucial in developing my understanding of the organisation and affairs of the varying European institutions.
After lunch, I was given a research task on the ‘Great Repeal Bill’. This was to fundamentally penetrate the mystery surrounding the bill by clearly identifying what the bill is; why it is important and what the current situation is with the bill, including Labour’s recent opposition to it. This helped enhance my understanding of the significance of the bill and why there was argument surrounding it. Following this I helped prepare speeches for matters on the current situation in Norway on whale hunting and the EU space programme. Last was the most exciting part of the day, seeing Diane write her comments on the previous days AFCO meeting to deliver in a video. After Diane wrote her comments she gave me the privilege of annotating and giving feedback to her on what I thought of her intended comments. We worked through my annotations together, with me giving reasoning for any adaptations of the comments put forward – these were even taken up by Diane! The real delight came however when watching Diane deliver her comments on video. This is perhaps due to seeing the process of comments made in a committee meeting translate to a format for the British public to digest.
Wednesday was a full day, starting with attending President Juncker’s State of Union Address in which he comments on Europe’s current political and economic landscape, reviewed the last year and looked forward to the objectives for the next year. It was incredibly fascinating to have the ins and outs of recent parliamentary activities outlined and to learn about problems faced in a plethora of European nations. After this lengthy speech and a quick lunch, the afternoon saw another video speech prepared and delivered, but also a press release of this to South East’s local newspaper outlets which I co-ordinated.
This week has introduced me to the workings of the European Parliament; thanks to the kindness of Ms. James and helpfulness of Ms. Milossa, I have been able to witness the role in which MEPs play and take a glimpse of ‘behind the scenes’ action that allows such roles and indeed institutions to run so smoothly. This trip has consolidated my ambition and further inspired me to have a career in politics and has provided me with backstories of other individuals’ journeys into their respective roles, giving me vital insight into necessary steps and advice that could help me achieve this.
I would thoroughly recommend to anyone looking to have a career in politics to spend time with an elected representative, in any capacity, as observing their day to day practices and interactions are invaluable to understanding their role and if you are suited for it.
I must give a heartfelt thanks to Ms. James and her team for undertaking myself for this crucial week and being such an accommodating host, taking time to help me understand practices and contexts surrounding votes. I look forward to keeping up with affairs within the European Parliament once I get home and to potentially visiting Ms James again, this time in her Brussels office.