GeoPolicy: Life inside the European Parliament – an assistant’s view

GeoPolicy: Life inside the European Parliament – an assistant’s view

This month’s GeoPolicy blog features an interview with Sebastian Jehle, Accredited Assistant to Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Norbert Lins. Understanding policymaking processes is vital to be able to engage with decision-makers and to provide scientific information that is both useful and timely. Sebastian was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions about life inside the European Parliament, the role he plays, how he receives and uses information, as well as some of the key lessons he’s learnt along the way!

Sebastian Jehle, inside the European Parliament.


Europe’s policymaking institutions are numerous and complex. The European Parliament is the European Union’s only directly elected institution with 705 Members (MEPs). These MEPs sit on various Committees where they, along with the Council, are responsible for amending and adopting EU legislation. The Brussels bubble can sometimes seem impenetrable but those who work within the system are real people and are often very approachable. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing one such person! Below, Accredited Parliamentary Assistant (APA) Sebastian Jehle provides us with some insights into how the Parliament functions and what life is like on the inside!



Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Sebastian! Before we get started, could you tell me a bit about yourself and how you found yourself working inside the European Parliament?

First of all, thanks for giving me the possibility for this interview. Quickly about myself: I work as a Parliamentary Assistant to Norbert Lins, a Member of the European Parliament and herein Chair of the Agricultural Committee. I studied European Studies both for my Bachelor and Master degrees, both times with a focus on European politics. So, the interest to work in or around European policymaking has always been there.

On a personal side, studying and travelling abroad definitely helped to raise my interest in living and working in another country. Of course, you have to have some luck as well to end up working for an MEP – a question of being at the right place at the right time – but my interests and studies definitely helped in choosing Brussels as a place to work. 


Is there an average day for an MEP? Can you tell us what kind of things you might need to do?

No day is really like the other, and you have a lot of irregularities when it comes to working hours, especially so when your MEP is the rapporteur on a legislative file. When an MEP is elected by a committee to be the rapporteur for a particular file, they are responsible for drafting a report with the help of experts that is then used by the Committee during the legislative process. That’s probably the most interesting part of the job as an APA, but it requires a lot more resources and flexibility in time management. Other than that, there is a certain regularity in the parliamentary calendar. It is split into different working weeks with fixed appointments: “Group Weeks (for political group meetings), “Committee Weeks” (for meetings of Parliamentary committees ), “Plenary Weeks” (where votes take place; hosted in Strasbourg) and “weeks for external parliamentary activities” for on-the-ground missions of Parliamentary committees and interparliamentary delegations . You can see when these weeks are scheduled on this calendar.

In-between committee meetings and group meetings, all the other possible time slots of our boss are filled with panel discussions, meetings with stakeholders, and journalist requests. We as assistants in Brussels – I have two more colleagues in Brussels and three in the constituency office – focus mainly on the organisation of the office. This includes the MEP’s calendar and his e-mail-account, and especially working on the content our boss is working in, in our case the agricultural field. That means preparing meetings with stakeholders, briefing him on specific fields, and working with him when it comes to taking decisions on the political level.

The support that APAs and other assistants provide MEPs is essential as it enables them to focus on their work, making the difficult decisions as elected members and representatives.

Hemicycle of European Parliament, Strasbourg. Photo Credit: Chloe Hill


What was one of things that surprised you about working in the Parliament when you first started, and what do you think is the most surprising thing that most people don’t realise now you are more established?

What surprised me first was how young the European Parliament actually is. A lot of the APAs are people that just come straight out of their studies. That combined with the international touch makes the European Parliament a very dynamic place to work!

Now that I’ve been here for a bit longer, another interesting part is that there is no such thing as a government majority like in national governments. This means that you often have to find new majorities when a file is voted on. MEPs and their offices are thus forced to cross national and party lines within the European Parliament. I admit, I’ve never worked in a national parliament, but could imagine that the European Parliament makes you a bit more open towards other parties due to the above-mentioned reasons. So, despite all the chaos and people trying to fight for their beliefs and convictions, it has always been a rather pleasant and cooperative place to work in.


What are some of the lessons or skills that you’ve learnt from working within the Parliament?

Well, you clearly have to have some intercultural skills and understanding when working with colleagues and people from all over Europe and beyond.

You have to be able to adapt to the international environment with all its facets. And as we are in the political sphere, you often have to adapt to new situations and tasks very quickly.

And it’s definitely not a 9-5 job. I guess some of the (self-inflicted) long hours at university and handing in papers last minute apparently turned out to be a pretty useful tool when you work in the Parliament.


What topic or policy is the top priority for you and your team over the next 6 months?

The European elections in June 2024 are looming on the horizon. We already feel the influence of that in our work life. The law-making process in general needs some time to complete a law. So basically, we will try to finish some of the legislative files that are still pending and also the ones that the European Commission might still come up with before this summer, hoping the European Parliament and the Council will finish them before the end of the term of the MEPs.


What is the top tip you would give to scientists who would like to engage more with the Parliament or policymaking process?

In general: in order to influence the outcome of a specific law, you have to contact the people working on it, in our case the MEPs. Just bringing in expertise in a panel or a hearing is, in my opinion, great, but not enough. One has to convince the actual lawmakers. My MEP is contacted via the usual ways, i.e. organisations and associations representing the interests of their members writing emails to us. This also includes  scientific organisations, doctors, and researchers working in specific fields.

One thing to remember: MEPs tend to be very short on time. If you come to their office, you should try to be brief and be able to explain the matter within 10 minutes.

Basically, without trying to sound harsh or too simplistic: The MEP will not read 100-pages of research. However, after you’ve met with an MEP and outlined your key points, you can follow-up with a 1-2 page summary via e-mail.

And if you’re a bit younger or still completing your studies, why not trying an internship with one of the MEPs in the respective committees of the European Parliament to have an insight in a field you would normally not consider working in? A change of perspective might help you look at policymaking in a different way! The best way to find out if an MEP hires interns on a regular basis is to email them and ask. Or, if you are keener on the European Parliament’s administration, you can also try a Schuman Traineeship.


A huge thanks to Sebastian for answering my questions about what life is like in the Parliament! And to all of our readers: We would also really like to hear your questions! What European institution would you like to learn more about? What questions do you have for policymakers in Brussels? What other areas and topics would you like the EGU #GeoPolicy Blog post to dive into? Let us know in the comment section below and we’ll do our best to cover them!

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Chloe Hill is the EGU Policy Manager. In this role, she provides scientists with information and resources that enable them to actively engage in the European policy process. She coordinates several activities that provide policymakers with scientific information and connects them with researchers around Europe. Chloe previously worked for the African EU Energy Partnership, and as a research assistant for the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability, the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities, and Forestry Tasmania. Chloe tweets at @Chl0e_Hill

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