Committee week in the European Parliament is the marmite of lobbying – you either love it or you hate it.
Whilst I can understand those lobbyists who see Committee week as mission impossible, flitting in and out of meetings, trying to be in three places at once, their phones stuck to their ear, anxiously tapping on their laptops or running down corridors trying to find room JAN 2Q2, I’m afraid I cannot empathise.
I love Committee week. If anything represents the raison d’être of being a Brussels-based lobbyist, it is being sat in a Committee room listening to an attempt by a Commissioner or Minister to justify him or herself to a lynch mob of MEPs, many of whom are liable to say something outrageous, hilarious, or patently untrue, and invariably do.
Attempts have been made to webstream Committee meetings, leading to the temptation to just stay behind one’s desk and watch the webcast, but there is nothing like experiencing a meeting in the flesh. Facial expressions speak volumes, particularly when an MEP or official is being attacked from all sides. An MEP who literally gives a Minister the thumbs down (as happened yesterday) will be missed by the camera, as will any frantic yet amusing attempt by the Chair to halt a UKIP member in full flow.
But what I like most about Committee week is the camaraderie of those of us in the back row. The lobbyists, MEP assistants, and journalists who often have to sit through hours of debate only to hear that the issue they are there for has been put back to the next day, or maybe cancelled altogether! Some get exasperated at such agenda changes, but I find it exhilarating. What will happen next? You never can tell.
And the free coffee! And free bottled water! And the ability to listen to a debate on organ transplants in Hungarian, Finnish, or Slovak!
Committee weeks are the bread and butter of our business in Brussels. The networking, the political intrigue, the nitty-gritty – all are part and parcel of our daily work, and all are amplified within the context of a European Parliament Committee meeting. Politics in its purest form stripped of all gloss and glamour – just the way it should be.