Hannah and Sophie's Guest Blogs

03 July 2017

Over the past few week the North-East office has had two people coming in for work experiance. Sophie and Hannah have both written about their impressions of the Parliament and how they feel their work experiance has gone.

First we have Sophie Cordery:

For the past five days, I have been fortunate enough to have had the chance to complete some work experience at the European Parliament. I have been studying in Brussels for the past five months as an Erasmus+ Programme participant and after my studies, I had a week before returning home to North East England which I wanted to use productively. I could think of no better way to end my time here than in the institution that makes the Erasmus scheme possible, so I emailed the office of the North East Labour Party and they kindly invited me to spend some time with them.

My first day was spent with the Petitions Committee which was particularly fascinating as the majority of petitions were related to Brexit. One petition was about the importance of safeguarding the Erasmus+ Programme and as someone who has directly benefited from the initiative, I felt very passionate listening to the young woman presenting. The Erasmus+ Programme has allowed me to live, travel and study in Europe whilst meeting people from all corners of the globe and it would be truly devastating if future generations of students are not awarded this opportunity.

Over the course of the week I was allowed to attend a wide variety of events including a meeting with the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, something I also care deeply about. The title of the hearing was ‘Gender Equality in the Media Sector of the EU’ and I got to witness first-hand the challenges that arise from finding effective solutions to complicated problems. I also attended an S & D Horizontal Working Group on the use of clean energy. Whilst I wasn’t that familiar with the topic discussed, it was refreshing to see healthy and engaging debates and I was able to gain a clearer understanding of how the socialist group operates internally. When I wasn’t in meetings, I was given small tasks such as organising the calendar and conducting research for articles. Despite how stressful and busy things can get, there is enough time to wind down too. The work here is serious but the atmosphere is generally relaxed. Whether it’s saying a friendly hello in the lift or eating together in the canteen, everyone gets on well.

Something I cannot forget to mention is how impressed I was by the team of interpreters working here. Watching them at work in the interpreting booths is incredible and it is clear that the Parliament would not be able to function without them. No matter the content, they never fail to deliver a rapid and professional speech into one of the EU’s 24 official languages. Having trained interpreters in a multi-language environment is more vital than ever before as we face potential changes to the EU’s language regime after Brexit.

To conclude, my time here (whilst brief) has been educational and provided great insight into the inner workings of the European Parliament. Completing work experience here is something I would strongly recommend to any young person interested in politics and I can guarantee that you will learn a surprising amount. I would like to thank the North East team for welcoming me into their office as well as for all of the work they do on a regional, national and international level.

Second is Hannah Hoey:

I have spent the last five months learning about the EU and travelling some of its most dynamic cities, and I have been very fortunate to conclude this experience with an internship placement at the European Parliament.

It is an interesting time to be at the European Union, especially in a British office. When deciding my options for the summer, many people were critical that I turned down other internships for this opportunity, arguing that Brexit renders further involvement with the Parliament as superfluous. However, I believe that now is arguably the most crucial time to be a British citizen at the Parliament. To have a front-row seat to the unfurling at the Brexit transition process is an invaluable experience that very few people will get to have. Furthermore, my placement also coincided with the General Election back at home, which was great for me because I was able to feel very connected to domestic affairs despite living in Brussels.

For five weeks I have been interning in the North-East office. Paul is a member of the agricultural and environment committees, as well as being Vice-Chair of the delegation for relations with Canada. These policy areas are dynamic and engaging, and appealed to my personal interests of climate change action and foreign affairs, as well as my connection to North America, where I am completing my undergraduate studies. It has been a great opportunity to be privy to discussions and committee meetings that focus on important issues in these fields, such as the promotion of tree-planting, the protection of bees, and maintaining friendly international relations.

During my time in the office, I conducted two research projects: one regarding misconceptions of immigration in the North East region, and another exploring the post-Brexit future of agriculture and agricultural policy both in the UK and in the EU. The latter was particularly interesting as it was largely speculative, given the uncertain future, and I was compiling information that was new and unexplored in this context. I was grateful to be trusted with this task, and am now better able to appreciate the significant scope and challenge that Brexit negotiations pose to all parties.

While here, I made the most of my access to events that appealed to my personal interests. After the election, I was able to attend a debriefing of the results from a German perspective, which I was able to contextualise as I have been living in Germany since January. I also attended several panels concerning EU-Turkey relations and the migrant crisis, which is an area I have studied academically and, after visiting a refugee centre in Athens in March, have a deep emotional investment in. Other topics I made sure to attend included a discussion on gender equality in the media, a spotlight on the continued crisis in Ukraine, and seminar regarding the role of young people in shaping the future of Europe.

As I conclude my time in Brussels, I am incredibly grateful for the warm welcome I have received from Jude and Paul’s office, and the friends I have made here at the Parliament. My experience here was a fantastic insight into the intense and multifaceted work that goes on at the Parliament, and has greatly informed my political science studies going forward. Exposure to the practical application of European law, lobbying and decision-making was invaluable, and I am thankful that I was able to be part of such a capable, hard-working and dedicated team.

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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