Welcome to Brussels and the European Parliament! The following is a collection of tips and tricks for navigating the Parliament and the city from former trainees, meant to help you acclimate to your new environment and have the best experience possible. Enjoy!
- Always be open to new experiences!
- Cultural sensitivity - if you are not from Belgium, be aware that some traditions and customs will not be the same as your home country, so always be aware of differences and be willing to adapt if necessary
- If you want to meet other trainees, go to Place Luxembourg (the roundabout in front of the Parliament buildings) on Thursday nights after about 18:00 for drinks and (very) informal networking
- Check the office email - many invitations for events and conferences are sent out every day, and if there’s space on the schedule, go to the ones that interest you!
- Browse Facebook events in the Brussels area for festivals, parties, concerts, and more happening in the city
- Keep a record of your experiences through photos, a journal, or a blog - this experience will be impactful and it can be very helpful to have a comprehensive record of what you’ve accomplished
- TripAdvisor for Brussels is a good way to find reviews on restaurants, cafes, and things to do
Information about the European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected legislative body of the European Union, and has three locations for offices and plenary sessions - Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg. The European Parliament is an important forum for political debate and decision-making at the EU level. The Members represent people’s interests with regard to EU law-making and ensure that other EU institutions are upholding democratic values. Through legislative authority and collaborative efforts, the Parliament has sought to promote democracy and human rights – not only in Europe, but also throughout the world.
This document has more detailed information about the current structure, political groups, election turnout, operations, and statistics about MEPs and other aspects of Parliament. This one contains fact sheets about all European Union institutions, but specifically check out the ones for the Parliament! (1.3.1-1.3.5)
Political groups are formed every Parliament session, and each MEP will join the political group that best aligns with their political standing in their home country. Find more information about the current political groups in the pictures below, and feel free to Google a party to discover their platforms and values. This helps when listening to Plenary sessions, as knowing the values and positions of various groups can keep you engaged in the overall legislative process.
Visiting the Parlamentarium is a good place to start as it will give you a general idea of the European Parliament and its history. It is located across the parliament building and entry is free, carry an identity card. The House of European History is also located very close to the Parliament, and also has free admission with your trainee ID.
Member of Parliament Petras Auštrevičius
Petras’s profile on the European Parliament website has details about the committees that he is involved with, his past experiences, and his writings and publications.
Petras is from Lithuania. He is a member of the ALDE group, which is the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The group has regular meetings to discuss resolutions and come to solutions for the group votes in Plenary, and their platform and values can be found here. You will be asked to attend group meetings and take notes on what an ALDE member’s comments might be on legislation debated in the Plenary.
Brussels is the capital of Belgium and home to many institutions of the European Union, regional offices from EU Member States, and a number of international headquarters and offices. The two official languages in Brussels are French and Flemish, but most residents speak limited English as well. The Brussels tourist website contains a lot of information about sightseeing and other visitation services. TripAdvisor is also a good resource for this information.
Parliament decides its annual calendar of work on the basis of a proposal by the Conference of Presidents. The calendar is divided into plenary sittings (part-sessions) and meetings.
It comprises :
- 12 four-day part-sessions in Strasbourg and additional two-day part-sessions in Brussels,
- two weeks a month for meetings of parliamentary committees and interparliamentary delegations,
- one week a month for political group meetings
- and four weeks a year where MEPs concentrate exclusively on constituency work.
(From the Parliament website)
A print out of the general calendar can be obtained from the information office or downloaded from this page, you can also look for specific events here:
The bi-weekly office schedule will also be given to you by the assistants or you can ask for one. It includes all the meetings, flights, events and parliament sessions that Petras will be attending.
It is better to find a accommodation near the parliament as it is a cultural hub, with Grand Place, Brussels Park, Palais Royale and other landmarks at walking distance. The area has many apartments, studios, rental rooms, serviced apartments and hotels in its vicinity. Leopold quarter has many cafes and restaurants at different price points. You can confirm your booking for around a week and then look around the area when you get here. This way you can get a first hand look at the various options and then decide where you want to stay for the rest of the trip.
- Institute of Cultural Affairs, Rue Amedee Lynen 8, 1210 Brussels | Tel. 32 (0)2 219 0087 - short-term intern accommodation, single room with shared bathrooms on every floor. Reasonable rent and shared meals give you the chance to meet other interns and young people working in the Brussels area
- www.immoweb.be - you can find student flats and shared accommodations according to your needs
- Airbnb.com - also has several options in Brussels
- Join this group on Facebook to find postings about flats and rooms available
Brussels is pedestrian-friendly and you can walk to most places. Walking is the best way to become familiar with the city but the city is not laid in a grid and is not entirely flat. It would help to have google maps with you. I would suggest public transportation only for long distances. Public transportation in Brussels includes Trams, Buses and the Metro. The metro, tram and bus map can be found here:
The Brussels-Luxembourg station or Station Europe is located in front of the parliament and is connected via the third floor of the parliament building.
Taxis are also available throughout the city but they may be hard to find sometimes, especially during rains or in less-crowded parts of the city. Taxis are also prone to taking longer routes if they realise you are not familiar with the city, so I would suggest to track the route on google maps while traveling in a taxi and point out to the driver when you realise they are taking a longer route on purpose. Only get in a Taxi if it is an official Brussels taxi, which can be recognised by their black colour with yellow stripes and always have taxi signs on the roof of the car. You can call a taxi as well but these taxis usually charge higher. Uber is also available in Brussels but does not accept cash payments.
The google maps app is very useful and you can save the Brussels area for offline usage. You can also save certain locations such as your accommodation, the parliament and any landmarks that would help you remember the way. The app maps.me is also a good app for downloading the city and works well offline and off cell service. The parliament map can be found at the information office. The Altiero Spinelli building is where the MEP offices are and the Paul-Henri Spaak building is where the Hemicycle, Press Room and other venues are located. They are connected through the third floor and separated by Rue Weirtz.
It would be useful to get a new sim card if you are not from EU27 countries. Proximus, Lycamobile and Orange are popular pre-paid options that you can top-up according to your need. Orange has several stores, including one at the Brussels airport. Having sufficient data to access maps if required would be recommended. The EU parliament has recently approved roaming-free calls across EU27 countries, which means you can use this sim card in your future travels in Europe as well!