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...

Thursday, 27 June 2019

First days in the new job, Week 3

I went to Brussels again.

I went both ways by Rail and Sail this week, so left on Monday evening after a day's work, and returned by Friday morning, so that I was able to do a complete day's work on Friday, and complete some marking and other matters before the deadline for examination marks at the University.

My Brussels trip was packed with appointments from morning till night every day, but in the course of that I managed not only to attend all the Group Meetings and UK delegation meetings, but also interview some candidates who had sent their CV in the hope of coming to work for me as parliamentary assistants. Indeed a good deal of week 2 had been devoted to considering the applications and fixing up times to see the people, along with a fellow MEP and an experienced member of the existing support staff from Keith Taylor's office. From the point of view of the assistants themselves, it's a bit of a nightmare if they used to work for an MEP during the previous mandate, and then their MEP is not re-elected. Then they suddenly have to try to find a new position urgently, to pay their rent and support their families. So newly elected MEPs are the lifeline who are looking for new staff and can take on some of the ones who have experience in running an office. That's obviously pretty helpful—to get someone who has lots of knowledge of what's what, since that's what the new MEPs lack. But of course, getting work with a new UK MEP is not particularly secure. They may end up out of a job again in due course, maybe quite soon!

Besides looking for good staff in Brussels so as to be well equipped and supported by the time we start in Strasbourg in July, I also had to do all the other complicated stuff, to register as a new MEP: to get access to the IT and email facilities and so on, get a badge to come and go in the building and several other things. There's a whole area of the building that is a "Welcome Village" where you have to go to seven stations and complete various kinds of paperwork. First you need some new bank accounts though, to keep the business expenses separate from personal expenses and I'll be having some money (my travel expenses and subsistence allowances) paid in € because it is for the hotel bills and meals, and some paid in £ because it is my salary and needs to pay for my house and bills. So before I could do that bit of the registration I had to go and open a new bank account with a Belgian bank, to keep my Euro money in.

Politically, we are still in the negotiations associated with the power struggle for the new parliament, so we had good meetings working out what we are hoping to achieve and how to insist that it happens. We're also waiting to find out which committees we're on, but there are some preliminary working groups and some other fora where we can thrash out things that are of interest to us. I attended a group with a focus on Environment and biodiversity, sustainable mobility, fighting climate change and zero waste, food, health. There are further working groups relating to the committees from this coming week, but I shan't be able to join those.

On Wednesday evening I did a live interview by Skype for Euronews about the announcement of the Government's "carbon neutral by 2050" target which had been announced that morning. I also did some work with the local media in East Anglia on Friday and Saturday when I got back.

And after doing two jobs all week, I then spent part of Saturday

joining the Critical Mass Bike ride in Norwich with Extinction Rebellion,

and then attending Natalie Bennett's talk on livestock farming practices at the Forum in Norwich as part of the Compassion in World Farming event.

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