Anyone who is frustrated by the red tape of European beaureaucracy will not be surprised that it takes more than 6 weeks to get a phone number in the European Parliament.
Over the past few weeks I have had to fill in so many forms I have lost count. Each form requires a queue at a different door. The first attempt is usually rejected and one is sent off to get another stamp from a bank, accountant's certificate, accompanying birth certificates, marriage certificates etc etc. One then rejoins the queue a couple of days later. Just getting the phone number to put on a business card feels like a great achievement.... though rather futile as there is no voicemail or ability to divert calls to a mobile. The office with the phone is a good 10 minutes walk from where meetings happen so unless I recruit a band of staff it will ring to an empty room. The parliament won't let my EU email ping to my blackberry so I can only pick up EU emails sitting at my desk but whilst at the desk there is no wifi coverage to check up my UK email account. Thank goodness I type fast and text for Britain.
On Monday I left home at 6.30 am to join a packed room in London for George Osborne's launch of the white paper on sound banking regulation. Then to Brussels and another 4 hours of forms. Peter Wilding an old friend from our voluntary work in Rwanda took me out to see the City - beautiful in parts but boy do they have a grafitti issue!
Tuesday Morning saw the co-ordinators meeting of the Economic and Monetary affairs committee. Kay Swinburne our MEP for Wales is a calm head and would normally be our co-ordinator but due to her constituency engagements I stood in. I'm sorry but I got a bit stroppy..... As a new member this felt like classic smoked filled room stuff - behind closed doors. A major piece of legislation that affects every single pension and investment in Europe was being debated in rather fast French with no translation. Given that over 70% of the members of this committee are new to the parliament I make no apology for asking for clarity in working practices!
During the rest of the day and on Wednesday Kay and I spoke to representatives from trade associations, regulators, leading banks, lawyers and investment companies about the plethora of legislation on the upcoming agenda. I don't think it is unreasonable to ask these institutions for "impact assessments" - what will the regulation cost the consumer or borrower. If they don't like the regulation what would they suggest as an alternative? For someone who has always worked in open planned offices I find it crazy to have to walk for at least 10 minutes to get back from a meeting place to my desk and by Wednesday mid-day there were blisters. NOTE will need comfier shoes.
Before catching the last train back to the UK last night I had a good meeting with local representatives from the East of England office about my ambitions to get more EU money back to my local area. Ideas whirring round while I did my homework on the Eurostar. Home 11.30 pm.
Today I've been in Norwich North - fingers crossed for Chloe in the count tomorrow. On the doorstep I met a man who has been on the local authority housing list for 15 years and is still waiting. I enjoyed a lengthy discussion about how to keep the local foxes away from the household chickens (its not all an urban constituency!)... and my daughters chickens have been wiped out 3 times in the past 18 months.
Tomorrow I go to an EERA meeting regarding EU grants in my area. Another 3 hours driving and hugely frustrating bureaucary, will it help to unlock funds?
The parliament now won't meet again until September. I am looking forward to some time back in the UK as well as our annual trip to the West of Ireland. The only mobile coverage there is in the local purveyor of Guinness, which puts it on a similar level of communication technology as the European Parliament!