My first few weeks of FleishmanHillard have been a real whirlwind of learning new skills, meeting new people, and just a little bit of socialising (on Plux of course!). Needless to say, I’ve already experienced some pretty amazing things, however, one of the best experiences I have had to date came when we (the interns) were taken from work, across Place Lux, and into the European Parliament itself. Not only were we getting the opportunity to see inside the Altiero Spinelli, Paul-Henri Spaak and József Antall buildings, but we were having this experience with the aid of two expert guides in Goran Gotev and Simon Rooze, two former MEP advisers. For a politics buff like myself, it really doesn’t get much better than this, so understandably, I was pretty excited – even if I was feeling slightly “mal à la tête” in the wake of a not insignificant Thursday evening at PLux.
The excitement built as we went into the back entrance of the Spinelli, through airport-esque security checks, and were given MEP guest badges. Goran and Simon then took us to the small event rooms near the restaurant, explaining the dos and don’ts of events, from remembering projectors to booking food and how to smuggle giant plants through security for events. As we moved on through the restaurant, Goran shared insights on where to meet an MEP for lunch (provided the topic of conversation didn’t require too much privacy). Avoid long tables, he said – who were we to doubt him!
We moved through the main lobby, past the banks, shops and one of the many smoking rooms (so alien to me as a Brit). Then came the best bit; we went into the viewing area and looked down on the hemicycle itself, and it was every bit as huge and imposing as one might imagine. This part was made even better by Goran and Simon knowing to take us into the empty reporters gallery nearer the action (were we part of the 4th Estate?). Our expert guides explained how the live translation worked during plenary sessions, showing us the various language booths. They also explained the seating arrangement of parties from left to right and the area where the President and staff sit. It was all pretty amazing, I suppose it’s like when you see a celebrity in real life, and you’re kind of awestruck trying to process the reality of that which you have seen in the semi-reality of the media so many times before. After anecdotes on the MEPs’ sitting arrangements, we moved on to the lifts, by TV studios, the moving (both literally and figuratively) ‘Confluence’ sculpture and up past the member’s post boxes, though as one might imagine, they aren’t used that much these days.
Lastly, we headed into the József Antall building and room ‘4Q2’, a mini hemicycle in which parties can meet and have votes or meetings. We sat down in the front row and Goran and Simon explained the Parliament’s nuances (hold on tight!), from committees and rapporteurs to ordinary legislative procedure. I think I speak for everyone when I say how impressed I was; not only by how complex and difficult to grasp these processes were, but also by just how much Goran and Simon knew about them! We finished with questions and minds abuzz we headed back towards the entrance. Whilst walking round the Konrad Adenauer footbridge and looking down through the glass on to the tourists below, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of smug superiority, they were outside, and if they got inside they’d only get a generic Parliament tour, whilst I had had the inside track, and what an experience it was.
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