Impressions of the European Parliament

I spent last week at the European Parliament in Brussels. The British Ecological Society run a scheme where early career ecologists spend two days shadowing somebody involved in environmental policy making. I spent a very informative couple of days with an MEP. Some -entirely informal- impressions:

  1. These people work hard, really hard. They make most academics look like slackers!
  2. To get science results to politicians seems to really requires intermediaries like NGOs, thinktanks, and the media. Probably making sure these organisations aware of scientific results should be the top priority if we want to communicate policy-relevant results.
  3. The simultaneous translation is hugely impressive. I amused myself by listening to some of the more boring bits in Maltese and Lithuanian!
  4. Most of the politicians I met seemed to be in it with a genuine aim to make things better. Probably they also quite like the power and prestige.
  5. I was surprised how separately MEPs seem to operate from Westminster and how little party politics is involved in the process.
  6. I can kindof see why so many politicians seem to have affairs with their secretaries!- it’s a pretty intense and personal relationship.
  7. I was surprised how informal the place feels.
  8. Policy-makers knowledge of environmental issues seems quite shallow, but quite broad.
  9. I’d forgotten how much I like Brussels as a city, it’s a really nice relaxed and liveable sort of city.
  10. I’m now really curious how Westminster compares to Brussels, I suspect quite drastically different (at least if The Thick of It and Yes Minister are anything to go by!).

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