Internship at the European Parliament office (The Hague) – no wage or expenses paid:
My whole life I dreamt of working for an EU institution, so when I was offered an internship at the European Parliament, I was absolutely thrilled. It was unpaid but I couldn’t have cared less. I was convinced that this was going to be the stepping stone to a great career…
My main task as ‘an eager-to-learn intern’ was the collection and selection of newspaper clippings related to the EU. There is a very specific procedure to follow: At eight thirty in the morning, over a cup of coffee and the latest gossip, the employees read the Dutch national newspapers and note down which articles refer to the EU. One person then photocopies the articles, which are in turn cut out by the intern. Articles that are too big have to be cut and pasted on an A4 sheet of paper and then the lot is photocopied again. The intern then takes the stack of photocopies and selects the ten most important articles, which are placed in order of relevance. The other less relevant photocopies land in the trash can. The selection is checked by a third person and after authorisation the intern puts the selection through the scanner. Next the intern takes the photocopies to a fourth person, who then sends them by email to the relevant parties. The whole process takes two and a half to three hours.
A funny anecdote from my time at the EP was my acquaintance with a mouse, which allowed me to experience the highly bureaucratic procedures involved in important decision making…
The EU mouse was an ugly, dirty little creature that seemed to enjoy the company of EP employees, as it happily ran around the work floor. One of the employees decided to collect information with regard to the various possibilities available. It was extensively discussed at the office meeting the next day and most employees agreed that something ought to be done about ‘the mouse problem’. The EP contacted the Bureau of the European Commission to discuss the best possible procedure to follow.
Later on in the week I received an interesting email, which informed me that the company hired to clean the office, was also qualified to remove mice and would be willing to do so. Great! Finally I would be able to sit behind my desk again, without frantically looking up every five minutes in the fear that my space would be invaded by the mouse.
Except it wasn’t quite that simple…. The cleaning company had up until that point only been employed to clean and thus their contract said nothing about removing mice. Therefor before the company could begin their work, they were asked to make an offer, specifying the exact costs of this little mouse to the EU. Brussels had then to be informed of the ‘problem’. Not only did they have to be informed, but they also had to give authorisation to employ this particular company and ensure it all fitted within the budget. They would then send a confirmation of approval to the EP in The Hague, who in turn would be able to contact the company and inform them that they were the lucky ones who were authorised to remove the mouse.
Today the EU mouse still runs around the office, enjoying his European freedoms and privileges, while behind closed doors men and women in suits are discussing its future.