Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Saturday, 1 June 2019

First days in the new job: week 1

What have I been doing this week? Well I'm not officially in the job yet (it starts on 1st July) but that doesn't stop them holding lots of meetings in Brussels in the coming weeks leading up to our starting day.

And naturally, the European Parliament bureaucrats want lots of paperwork to make us official, so there's a process of registering (which I haven't done yet: it will require several hours of free time in Brussels and several pieces of paper that I didn't have with me on this visit, and possibly won't have for some time).

What we did do was meet up with the hugely impressive "Green Group" which is all the MEPs from the Green Parties from a range of EU countries. There was a great sense of positive progress, not least in the fact that we needed BIGGER ROOMS, and there wasn't enough space for everyone, because there are SO MANY of us. Not enough of us, naturally (why did we only win seven UK seats, you may well ask, when everyone should have been voting Green at this point?). But still, there are a lot of us, a lot more than there used to be. What's more, in the Green/EFA Group, the UK Greens comprise one tenth of the whole, or more than that if you include the four members of the EFA (SNP members and Plaid Cymru). But still, Germany and France have even larger contingents of Green MEPs than us.

I'm beginning to learn who's who and to discover all the wonderful people from other countries with whom we'll be needing to collaborate, working together in the committees to get our ambitious proposals and policy changes up and running in the next few weeks, months and years. Many of the other MEPs in the Group have been there before and are already experienced and influential in their roles, so the UK delegation is unusual in having six of our seven MEPs new to the role.

Wednesday's meeting was partly a celebration of the Party's huge success all across Europe in these elections, and partly an opportunity to get to know each other. There are also crucial decisions to be taken in working out how the Group positions itself in relation to other large groups in the Parliament, since we are now large enough to hold a "balance of power" position. No Group has an overall majority, so groups of the size of the Greens can offer support for things that are in line with our values and ideology (or decline support if there are things that we wish to oppose).

I've got a lot to learn: finding my way about in Brussels was a small and relatively simple bit of it, though since it was a Public Holiday on Thursday which was the day I was coming home, part of the metro was closed for repairs, and I had to take a rather infrequent "Sunday service" bus to Brussels Midi Station to catch the Eurostar coming home.

Finding my way about the Parliament Building will be much worse (I've only been to a few bits of it, and always with someone to take me to the right place). Getting my head round the work involved in finding and appointing staff for my offices (one office at home and one office in Brussels) is even more challenging. And then there is the urgent task of finding accommodation for the weeks we have to go to Strasbourg for sessions in the parliament there.
And probably I need to be booking travel tickets.
Tricky to do all this with no assistants in post yet, and while I still have a lot of things I have to do in my old job—most of which have been waiting for weeks, because there was no time for anything during the election campaign. And then there was the stuff at home, like the lawn that needed mowing. Finally I did that this weekend!

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