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Europe

A day in the life of an MEP

To get a sense of what a typical working day looks like at the European Parliament in Brussels, our correspondent spent a day shadowing German Green parliamentarian, Franziska Brantner.

The 500 million EU citizens are represented by over 750 directly-elected MEPs, or Members of the European Parliament. Based in Brussels, MEPs have the power to shape the detail of legislation, which could then end up on the statute books of all 27 EU member states. But few MEPs have a high profile in their home nations - and many EU citizens have no idea what they actually get up to.

So on this particular autumn morning, German Green MEP, Franziska Brantner, has agreed to open up her world and show me what a typical working day looks like in the European Parliament. Although, as I'm about to discover, no day could be described as "typical."

Foreign affairs

Foreign Affairs Committee, European Parliament, Brussels 20.09.2012 (Joanna Impey, DW)

The rounds of voting are baffling to an outsider

After going through security checks, I'm shown into a large plenary chamber, where some 60 MEPs are due to meet at 9 a.m. They arrive in dribs and drabs, talking to colleagues and assistants, and setting themselves up at their allotted desks. One of the last to arrive is Franziska Brantner - and at 33, she's one of the youngest MEPs in the parliament - easy to spot with her short blonde hair and stylish cream jacket.

This is the foreign affairs committee - one of the largest and most important committees in the European Parliament. Like the US Congress, the real work of the parliament is done in such committees. This morning they're voting on a series of issues related to the coming budget period.

The rounds of voting happen so quickly that for an outsider, it's impossible to follow what's going on. It's rather like an auction room, with a chairman calling out numbers, and dozens of hands shooting up into the air.

Meetings galore

At around 10 o'clock, we grab a coffee and discuss the rest of the day's agenda.

Franziska Brantner, MEP (Photo: Joanna Impey, DW)

Brantner is advocating the creation of a European Institute of Peace

"It's a bit special because today we have Carl Bildt with us - he's the Swedish foreign minister," Brantner explains. Bildt is coming to Brussels to discuss one of Brantner's biggest projects, the creation of a European Institute of Peace.

Ten minutes later, we're pounding the corridors on our way to the next meeting on the other side of the building. As we negotiate our way through the maze of corridors, Brantner manages to check emails on her blackberry and even make a couple of phone calls.

Franziska Brantner may be a young MEP, but she plays a central role for the Greens. She joined the Green Party at the age of just 15, studied at Columbia University in New York and at the elite Sciences Po in Paris, and has a PhD in international law. She is now foreign affairs spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament.

Political strategy

Next on the list is a Green party strategy meeting to discuss how to push through plans for quotas for woman on boards.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt - REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt is today's special guest

"We as Greens want to add pressure on those governments that are blocking to abandon their blockage power at this stage. We're trying to build up a campaign," Brantner explains.

Brantner then has a private lunch with the Swedish Foreign Minister, who joins her at the afternoon workship she's chairing on the idea of forming a European Institute of Peace. The 40-odd delegates settle down to listen to the debate, rattling cups of tea and rustling papers.

The ideas about forming a new European initiative for conflict resolution bounce back and forth, but by five o'clock the workshop is over, so we head back to Brantner's office to talk through what's been achieved:

"On such days I have the impression I can at least be part of launching processes that can lead to something," she says. "And yes, I think you can change things. I'm not sure yet if it will be a success. But I will work hard to make sure it will be one."

Home time!

***Achtung: SCHLECHTE Qualität - nicht als Teaser- oder Karusselbild verwenden!*** Plenarsaal EU Parlament *** Der Plenarsaal vom EU Parlament in Brüssel wird geputzt. Bild von: Trajche Tosev Wann: 06.10.2009

There's still paperwork to get through when the meetings end

At about 17.30 it's time for me to head off home, but Brantner still has a pile of paperwork to get through.

"I have to now look at all the files in the dossier ... and to talk through two other projects with one of my assistants, so probably another hour or two … And then I get to go home to see my daughter."

It's a lot to pack into one day - and whilst being an MEP certainly isn't dull, Brantner has her sights on even bigger things. She's planning to stand as a green party candidate in the next general elections in Germany in a year's time. So life for Franziska Brantner could soon be about to get a whole lot busier.

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