MEP Justas Paleckis' parliamentary activities – 6th European Parliament term (2004-2009).
MEP Justas Paleckis' parliamentary activities – 7th European Parliament term (2009-2014).
The European Parliament has a peculiar character all its own, and has gained the nickname "The Travelling Parliament;” this is because its life and day-to-day activities are spread across different countries: Belgium (Brussels), France (Strasbourg) and, in my case, the office in Vilnius. Strange as it may seem, my workload rotates between these three places - three weeks in Brussels and one week in Strasbourg, with weekends spent in my office in Vilnius. For me a working day usually starts at 8.30 am, half an hour before the "official time" in order to go through letters, e-mails, news etc. The three weeks in Brussels involve numerous political group and committee meetings, plenary sessions in Parliament, discussions, and problem-solving activities. The normal end to the day is 6.30 pm.; however during one session in Strasbourg in November last year, I was surprised to see that it was scheduled from 9 am until midnight! There is, unfortunately, insufficient time to attend all the scheduled meetings arranged during the working day so much of what happens just "passes by.” It is sad to admit that sometimes two-thirds of the agenda is not reached and left incomplete.
MEP Justas Paleckis in the European Parliament, Strasbourg
One of the most important committees (eagerly sought by MEPs) is the Committee of Foreign Affairs to which I was selected as a delegate by the Socialist and Democrats Group. I am also a substitute member of the Environmental Committee, which enacts the largest amount of legislation and creates the largest amount of paper work. Since 2007 I have worked as vice-chairman of the subcommittee for Security and Defence. Besides the work that concentrates on the affairs of member states and the EU as a whole, the European Parliament is also involved in co-operation with neighbouring countries in the form of Delegations. The most important of these Delegations are those for the US, China and Russia; I was pleased to be selected for the latter delegation by the Socialist and Democrats Group. In September 2009 I was elected as vice-chairman of the EP's delegation for relations with Belarus and became a member of the Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.
The salient question is - how does one manage to do everything? And, as if the earlier work mentioned above is not enough, there are also so-called "inter groups," such as those for the Baltic Sea which are both interesting and very important. These groups require added discussions, consensus-building gatherings, speeches to write, etc…
The Strasbourg meetings are held in a beautiful large blue balcony that is usually crowded with tourists, local citizens and journalists (up to two hundred in number) beside the delegates. One day recently while I was hosting a group of Lithuanian business officials, it was remarked that during a plenary session, not one of the 12 Lithuanian MEPs could be spotted. Often the hall is only half full, but it has to be said that if one spends all day in the plenary room, much other important work fails to be completed.
Once the most important considerations have been dealt with, MEPs return to their offices to go through other crucial business whilst still keeping an eye on the live transmission on a TV monitor of the continuing discussion in the main chamber.
In the office in Brussels, there are normally one or two assistants who are assigned to an MEP- they go through an average of 100 e-mails a day, summarise reports, arrange and follow the MEP's agenda, attend meetings, etc. When I go to Strasbourg, I usually go by myself.
In the European Parliament, the work is done through political groups and not by individuals acting alone. The three largest political groupings are the European People's Party, the Progressive Alliance of European Socialists and Democrats, and the Liberals. Opinions are formed and consensus is built during political group meetings. Although MEPs are not obliged by the Group to vote this way or that, they usually follow the party line while considering the interests of the particular national member state. Although there is no "Lithuanian Faction" as such in Parliament, to deal with important issues concerning our country I have formed an unofficial "Lithuanian MEP Club" where the 12 of us meet.
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats is one of the most influential groups as well as the second largest group within Parliament with 183 MEPs. For years it has been the biggest political bloc. It is comprised of MEPs from the Social Democratic/Christian parties in Germany, Scandinavia and the Benelux as well as the Labour party in Britain.