Working with Julie and her team not only gave me an insight into the workings of the EU close up, but also gave me the opportunity to meet many interesting people who seemed more than happy to pause their busy schedule to chat with a volunteer new to the European Bubble.
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I spent six weeks with Julie across the summer spending time in the European Parliament in Brussels, Julie’s constituency office in Workington, Cumbria and participating in a conference in Caux, Switzerland, a project Julie was speaking at as a children’s rights champion.
While in Brussels, I learnt how Julie approaches her position within the parliament and split my time between taking in various parts of the parliament’s activities and completing tasks to help with Julie’s work. I spent time in committees, sat in on meetings that Julie is a part of, and attended events in the parliament after office hours including a Labour MEP hosted film screening of ‘The Mask You Live In’ and a conference held by the Green group: ‘Searching for a new narrative: the hopes of European Muslims’. Such a mixture of events and hearing speakers from across the Union and beyond gave me plenty of food for thought on the issues in question as well as the decision making and political action processes of the parliament. While in the office itself rather than exploring what the parliament had to offer, I spent time doing jobs for Julie and her staff including turning some of Julie’s speeches into blog posts for her website and researching around certain topics relevant to Julie’s political interests or future events.
In Workington, although it was a less hectic environment than the parliament in Brussels, there was still plenty to do. The constituency office handles most of the case work from Julie’s constituents in the North West; Imran and I were put in charge of inputting various cases into a database which allows to office to keep track of the case work more easily. This was a particularly interesting job to do as it showed the many ways in how an elected representative such as Julie is able to represent their constituents. Another job we were given was creating a list of 100 reasons for the North West in particular to stay in the EU, given the upcoming in/out referendum. Hopefully this resource will prove to be useful in Labour’s campaign against leaving the EU, but for me personally, creating it and researching around all the different wings of the EU gave me a really interesting crash course of learning how the UK as a whole benefits from being in the EU and how this affects individual citizens. Workington is in a beautiful part of the world and we were able to pop over to the Lake District now and then.
As for CATS (Children as Actors for Transforming Society), the children’s rights conference in Switzerland, this was an eye-opening experience into what people want to change regarding children’s rights and participation and how decision makers aim to implement this. Although this is what it boils down to in essence it doesn’t really describe the week-long conference very well; the conference was attended by adults, children and young people and all were involved in the conversations, and despite only lasting a week had a strong feeling of community.
Overall, I spent my summer in Julie’s office learning through participating and am very grateful for the opportunity. Thanks as well to Barbara, Konrad, Trevor, Julia, Omri, Haydn and Eleanor for making me welcome!