On 30 May AEGEE-Groningen visited Brussels. This is something we do every year, so that the new members that we recruit can meet the Comité Directeur (CD), and become informed about the European level. Not only through AEGEE, but also through the European Parliament.
There were even some people from AEGEE-Nijmegen, AEGEE-Bruxelles and the Comité Directeur joining us. Each year, we visit the European Parliament, and it is always a big success. Last year they told us something about the European system, we got to ask questions to the assistant of a current Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and we got a tour around the plenary room.
This year we actually got a couple of minutes with a Dutch MEP, Judith Merkies, and she told us her vision and goals. We could send in some questions beforehand, and we asked her, among other things, what her ideal Europe would look like, what it is like to be an MEP and what she thought of several recent topics. She could not answer all our questions, because she had to head out to Nijmegen, but we got the gist of it.
Afterwards, an European Parliament Official joined us to tell us more about basic tasks of the Parliament. We still don’t know what her task was though, but what she told us was interesting. She gave us some statistics and some important names of people in the European Parliament. Also she told us more about the way the European Parliament works.
Next, the assistant of Judith told us a little something about the hard life of an assistant. When the Q&A part of the visit was over, we got to see the plenary room.
The visit ended in the cafeteria, where we got to eat a fully paid lunch, which was one of the highlights for most people.
So for all of you who do not know anything about the European Parliament, the European Commission or their tasks, here is a little speed course:
First of all, the European Commission consists of 27 commissioners. There is one commissioner for each member state. The biggest task of the European Commission is to submit proposals for new laws. The European Parliament has more members though. The 748 members of the parliament are based on the number of people living in that specific country. For instance, Germany is a very big country, with a lot of inhabitants, so they have more MEPs than smaller countries. This gives them more voting rights.
But just because a country has a lot of MEPs, that does not mean they automatically create a majority. A lot of the time MEPs from the same country, do not vote the same. Just like in a country, they belong to different political groups and have different opinions, even within a country.
The European Parliament is responsible for creating new laws, but because there needs to be a majority, this can take a very long time. Before a law is ready to be voted on, it gets adjusted a lot of times, so that most of the MEPs agree with the outcome and vote in favour.
There is a treaty stating that the 12 plenary meetings have to be in Strasbourg. So every month all the MEPs travel to this city to have a meeting. They stay there for a week, they discuss various topics and vote on them.
Because people are chosen for the European Parliament by capacities and not language skills, everything has to be in the native language of the MEP. Therefore, there are a lot of translators involved in these plenary sessions.
There are a lot more interesting things to say about the European Parliament and Commission, but considering this is the speed course, I think this is enough for now. Of course Google also knows a lot!
Written by Sanne Hillemans, AEGEE-Groningen