By Maciej Blasiak
Originally published in October 2013
[Note from the Editor: Below is an informal diary-like entry on International Politics and Economics undergraduate student, Maciej Blasiak’s, experience as an intern at the European Parliament. The internship took place on June 2013 and was co-financed by the Department of International Politics, at Aberystwyth University]
My internship in the Brussel’s office of deputy Handzlik from European Peoples Party was 1 month long. During the internship I was responsible for a variety of tasks. I attended and prepared briefings of various meetings of internal market and consumer protection and international trade committees. I was responsible for monitoring the legislative process taking place in these committees. I attended the hearing of Neven Mimica which took place on 4th of June and regarded his role as a new commissioner from Croatia.
I was actively supporting MEP’s office. I drafted speeches presentations, press articles and the monthly newsletter which are published on the MEP’s website. I had to analyse legal acts, and other documents when answering queries which came to the office. My total expenses were €987. That includes €585 for the accommodation, €180 for food, €52 for transportation within the city and €170 cost of travel both ways.
I am a student of International Politics with Economics at Aberystwyth University. In June 2013 between my 2nd and 3rd year I was an intern in the European Parliament. It was very exciting period of time, one which will remain in my memory forever. During my one month long internship, which has been co-financed by the department of International Politics, I have done and learnt a great deal of various things. First thing I have noticed is that, quite often people do not realise what politicians really do. Knowledge based on flashes from the news is very partial. Thus, I was quite surprised to see how busy these people really are! But let me start from the very beginning.
The First Day
I have been working in the office of Deputy Handzlik from the European Peoples Party, which is the biggest party in the European Parliament. I began my internship on the 3rd of June and after a brief tour around the Parliament I was given my own desk and put straight into work. My first duty was to look into both European and national legislation in order to prepare an answer for a query regarding fire trucks and the different safety regulations when buying them abroad. Certainly it wasn’t something I have expected or prepared for. But as the query came from a mayor of a small town back in my MEP’s region I had no choice but to find the answer. I realised that the ability to quickly find the necessary information is a very important skill, despite it not being a particularly exciting task. Looking for useful readings beyond the handbook was more rewarding than expected and also paid off in a very unusual manner. During my internship I had to look into similarly extraordinary things quite a few times. However, as I conducted a variety of tasks, I am not going to write about all of them in detai instead I will describe some of the most interesting events from my internship.
Day 2 to Week 1: Accepting a New Commissioner
On the second day of my internship there was an official hearing of Neven Mimica, Croatian candidate for the 28th commissioner. As the MEP I worked for is a member of the internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) committee, I couldn’t miss a hearing of the future Commissioner for Consumer Protection. I looked forward to an exciting event and I was not disappointed. EU officials and members of the media walked around during the almost three hour long hearing on future EU policy and The Commission’s plans and goals. It was even more exciting to attend EPP working group the next day and see behind the scenes talks on whether to accept the new Commissioner or not. As those of you who follow the EU news know, Mimica has been accepted and since the 1st of July 2013 he is the 28th Commissioner.
It was quite a press attracting event but life in the EP brings new challenges and adventures everyday. As I was exploring the huge complex of 7 buildings that make up the EP, I was very excited to find out that there is a restaurant in the EP which is even cheaper than TameDa! My first week was very busy, full of different challenges getting more intense just before the beginning of the plenary session. It all changed in the second week in the EP which was rather quiet, well actually it looked like a dead place. During the plenary session of the Parliament in Strasburg there is not much going on in Brussels. Staff in Brussels get take advantage of this quiet time to catch up with all the queries, update websites, etc. Hence I was given some office work and not much happened during that time.
Week 2: An introduction to Tobacco laws
The following week brought on new exciting opportunities for my career development. The MEP I worked for, deputy Handzlik was a rapporteur for the Tobacco directive which was and still is a very important legislation. Its aim is to decrease the number of young people who start to smoke. Reports I have read about it all agree that damage to health and losses for the economy are enormous and it is beyond doubt that something has to be done about it. On the other hand there is a big industry and quite an important part of the farming sector that depend on the manufacture of tobacco products. It is not an easy task to reach the aim of the directive and satisfy producers at the same time.
Week 3: Voting on the Amendment
In the 3rd week of my internship it was time to vote in the IMCO and INTA committees on amendments made by deputy Handzlik. I was responsible for noting down the results. It seems like an easy task, but that is nothing more than illusion. Voting lists are quite complicated with different compromises and amendments excluding each other, if one is passed, the other one is not even considered for vote, and as it is all happening quite fast, there is not much time to lose. The results were very satisfying for my MEP as most of the amendments passed. The next step for me was to deal with all the phone calls from journalists wishing to interview my boss. During this busy time I felt almost like it was my amendments that have been accepted.
Week 4: Interviews and my Dissertation
My last week in the EP was a bit quieter, I was busy preparing the work for another plenary session in Strasburg, as well as trying to question some of the MEP’s on topics related to my dissertation. Unfortunately it is not easy to get answers from them- they’re usually too busy with other things. They either did not want to answer my questions or delegated the task to their assistants. But well, not giving an answer is also a form of response so I got what I wanted anyway!
The Last Day
My last day was sad and satisfying at the same time. I really enjoyed my stay and liked what I was doing, so I felt it all passed too quickly and would have liked it to last a bit longer. On the other hand it was uplifting to see that my work matters and that Mrs Handzlik is happy with what I’ve done.
Certainly it was a great experience. I met a lot of interesting people who are involved in the legislative process. I had a very unique insight to the European Parliament which helped me to understand how things work in the EU. It is something that I can recommend it to everyone. It is not that hard to get involved, simply find an MEP from Your region and send him or her Your CV. Opportunities which can develop us are always worth trying. Good Luck everyone!