~ “We only have two hours, can we make it?” We have to discuss two proposals today: one to implant microchips into European citizens and one for a new water directive. Members of the Parliament (MEPs) and Council negotiators must strike a deal.” ~
Two hours to go
We, the MEPs are divided into four political groups. Equipped with innovative and very interactive technology we start our way through an intense trail of instructions and background information. Mobile devices guide us during the negotiations.
It is like a playground. Delimited by a color and a symbol, we know what to expect from the place we currently are in. Our mobile devices keep hurrying us. New symbols pop up frequently to show us where to go next: Party offices, committee meeting rooms, and of course the plenary hall.
One hour and 50 minutes
First stop: The party meeting room. We divide the work between us. Two colleagues join the civil liberties committee and deal with the microchip issue; two go for environment and the water directive.
Each has to consider two questions: how should we decide on the budget needed and then how can we convince the other members to vote for our amendment?
One hour and 45 minutes
Next on the screen: a coffee pictogram. Break? Already? Far from it! In order to present our arguments better in the plenary we have to meet lobbyists, constituents, researchers and advisors and listen to their views on the new law. Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick. We have to decide carefully who has the most important things to say.
One hour and 30 minutes
We just received a message saying that we have to participate in a TV debate with members from each party. And to prepare a speech! What do you say in 20 seconds to convince the other members to vote for your amendments?
One hour and 15 minutes
After the exhausting debate, we return to the office, but there’s no time to relax: tons of mails and phone calls from citizens are waiting for us. You can literally see and hear the time pressure. Only two more minutes to listen to the arguments of the citizens and the advisors.
One hour to go! “I give up infrastructure. Give me research”.
Our first committee meeting has come. We want our amendments to be approved, but because neither party has the majority we have to compromise.
45 minutes – At last, our first plenary session. So exciting! A representative of each party has the opportunity to take the floor and express the positions of their group. Then, we vote on the two proposals prepared in the committees. But neither gains a majority. So, a fresh start for us – and this time: try harder!
30 minutes – We have to return to our meeting rooms to discuss with our colleagues a strategy to make sure our amendments are approved. We are invited to a negotiation with the representatives of the EU Council. Negotiations on the amendments are hard, but an agreement is necessary in order to legislate.
15 minutes – Time for a new plenary session and voting again. One law is accepted and the other one is rejected by the members. It’s time for the reconciliation meeting with the Council. “This time we have to be more determined!” I hear my colleagues say.
Time is nigh! – Last plenary session. The microchipping proposal fails to gain a majority, and is therefore rejected. But on the water directive, members could reached an agreement! We congratulate each other on a successful plenary.
Well, this was all fake. What we have just described is one session of the role play game at Parlamentarium, the European Parliament’s visitors’ centre in Brussels This game puts participants in the shoes of the European legislators. For two hours, the MEPs to be have to negotiate positions, majorities, and compromises. They have to support amendments of the law in line with the values and agenda of four imaginary political parties. That of course means, that no one can choose the nationality or political party they enact. Romanian graduates become Latvian members of the Green Party and of the Environment committee, German trainees will be Italian conservatives. It goes without saying that negotiation and communication skills are a necessary asset during this game.
The Parlamentarium is located in Brussels and is open every day except on Monday mornings. Its exhibition shows the history and evolution of the European Union in an interactive and engaging way. At the entrance, each person receives an audio-guide or a personal media guide (PMG). The visitors can choose the language they prefer from all 24 official languages of the European Union. Aside, the Parlamentarium features temporary exhibitions on the work of the parliament.
Individual visitors do not need to make reservations in advance and it is free of charge to visit the Parlamentarium. Groups should book in advance to ensure a sufficient number of audio guides available. The Role play game is designed for groups of up to 32 people.
This article was first published on Internal Voice during my wonderful internship at an European Institution in Brussels.