Civic and Community
A Day in the Life of an MEP
This was the diary received from the member of the European Parliament for Mid and South Wales.
In an MEP's life, there is no such thing as routine. Every day is different, be it in Brussels, Strasbourg or Wales. The two constants in my life are travel and paperwork, and I have made myself rules for coping with both. I have resolved never to get stressed through airline delays or traffic jams and I throw away any paper work which I've carried back and forth between my home and the office twice and have not read.
As a rule, I hate very early mornings but since having my son Arwel, this has had to change. On a Strasbourg week it is even worse. Getting to and from Strasbourg takes about eight hours and as there are no direct flights from Cardiff I have to go via Paris. Today I had to wake at 4 am in order to be in Strasbourg in time for votes at 12 o'clock. I think that this is one of reasons why Strasbourg weeks are so unpopular.
While I am in the office, things constantly land on my desk that need to be tackled there and then but no matter what you do, the paperwork keeps piling up! My solution is to prioritise and set my own agenda or others will try and set it for you. At the beginning of every year I set my self a number of goals to achieve and concentrate on these and my constituency business before tackling any other issues. Dealing with 'other business' is an ongoing part of my working day and always manages to fill those rare free minutes.
When I am in Strasbourg I spend relatively little time in the debating chamber. I go there to speak or vote, but most of my time is taken up with meetings -- an average of nine a day. This week has been different because we were discussing the 2003 budget - the debate surrounding this is highly political, and it's result can have serious implications for Britain, and Wales.
This afternoon I went to the Budgetary Control and Environment Committee meetings where we discussed the legislation which will be voted on this week. I also chaired my last meeting of the European Minority Languages Intergroup. I have just stepped down as their President and have been replaced by an MEP from the Netherlands. We decided to add a number of amendments to the 2003 budget in support of minority languages. As a welsh speaker, I feel passionate about this topic and will continue to take an active role in the intergroup.
Later, a representative from the Royal Mail came to my office to give me a briefing on the current situation in Wales, as I will be visiting them to talk with managers and trade union representatives next week. One of my prime concerns is the closure of rural post offices and a guarantee of same day delivery. Before I left the Parliament for the evening, I attended the weekly meeting of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. We discussed our priorities for the week and any important issues that will be coming up in the near future - Iraq, the temporary workers directive, and medicine legislation, all topic which concern our constituents.
I don't like going out at weekends as I value the quiet time I have at home with my family, so I try to take advantage of time in Strasbourg and Brussels to have a bit of a social life, and I will typically grab a bite to eat with friends and colleagues in a local restaurant. Tonight I am going to use my time catch up with parliamentary news and hopefully recruit my fellow MEPs to a socialist choir I have set up in the European Parliament, before then going home and falling into bed. Many of my colleagues dislike Strasbourg as you have to live out of a suitcase, but I am lucky because I stay with a family who 'adopted' me when I was a student in Strasbourg at 18. It is a lot more pleasant than a hotel room, and stands me in good stead for the next day at work -if I am lucky I may even get a packed lunch with some traditional alscasian treats!
Despite the constant travel, all the paperwork and the long hours, I'm passionate about this job. I love being centrally involved in discussions that are shaping people's lives, from the reaction to September 11 to how people get rid of their rubbish. It's such a privilege to do that and represent Wales in an international environment -- and although Strasbourg isn't the best week in the month, I can't think of a better and more worthy job.