A visit to the European Parliament kicked off the events calendar for 2012, as the interns found themselves in Brussels last week.
After checking in at a very well located hotel near the Place du Luxembourg we took a deep breath and dived into the first meeting of thirteen that would take place before we departed for London the following evening. Although the schedule of meetings was intense everyone we met was extremely accommodating and pleased to talk to us about their work.
The list of people we met with is as long as it is diverse and each one gave us a different insight into the ‘Brussels bubble’. The institutions of the European Union are often portrayed as vast monoliths, unintelligible to anyone who has not worked there since their inception and who doesn’t speak ten languages. But the reality of working in or with the European Parliament and all of the associated bodies and agencies is quite different, we discovered.
|Interns with Gay Mitchell MEP|
Gay Mitchell MEP was especially compelling, talking to us about how he reconciles his faith and political work. Mr Jorge Nuno-Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europa, gave us a unique insight into the work of a major NGO working with the EU and Fr Frank Turner SJ shared some radical views about clericalism. Hans-Gert Poettering MEP, who was President of the European Parliament 2007-2009, was one of the most charismatic men we met, his passion for the EU and all he believed it could achieve clearly coming through in the way he spoke about the challenges it both faces and has those it has managed to overcome.
|Stephen with Hans-Gert Pottering MEP|
Love it or hate it, the EU is here to stay. The people we met showed us that it is the individuals who make up the institutions of the regional body that keep the momentum of positive change going, most of whom are determined to better the lives of those living within the member states.
After a couple of weeks apart it was fantastic to spend some time together as a group. We are very fortunate that visits such as this are included in our internship and can’t wait until the next overseas trip –to Rome in May!