Opinion pieces

You’ve got to be joking if you think there are normal days in the European Parliament, Irish MEP Ciaran Cuffe says

WE have all heard of the European Parliament in Brussels. But how many of us actually know what they do all day?

The 705 Members are directly elected by voters in all 27 Member States to represent our interests with regard to EU law-making and to make sure other EU institutions are working democratically.

Seats are allocated on the basis of population by state. MEPs are grouped by political affinity, not nationality.

Ireland has 13 members - from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, the Green and Independents - representing Dublin/Midlands-North-West and South.

MEPs - who have a €105,000 salary and a €24,943 monthly allowance to pay staff - divide their time between their constituencies, Strasbourg, where plenary sittings are held, and Brussels.

Writing in the Irish Sun today, Green Party MEP for Dublin Ciarán Cuffe tries to explain what politicians do every day in Brussels.

A NORMAL day? You’ve got to be joking!

There are not too many of them in my life as a member of the European Parliament.

But, let me try and give you a flavour of my life as an Irish MEP.

5.30 am: A tap on my wrist from the alarm on my watch wakes me. Time to hop out of bed and make tracks.

Ten minutes later I’m in a taxi on the way to Dublin Airport for an early flight to Brussels.

The flight is on time, and by mid-morning I’m out of Brussels Airport and on a train that takes me to the European Quarter in the heart of Brussels.

My travel has a large carbon footprint, and to cut down on this, I sometimes take the SailRail option which takes eleven hours by ferry to Holyhead, train to London and Eurostar across the channel.

This gives me time to read, and more importantly to think before endless rounds of Brussels meetings, but this morning I’m on a flight to make it to a morning meeting.


Covid has allowed more meetings to take place online, but it can be hard to negotiate legislation on a Zoom call.

Speaking face to face, even with a mask on, can make communications flow smoothly.

It’s 10:30 in Brussels and the Transport Committee has kicked off.

A row over the annual budget ensues, and a vote takes place.

This shortfall in the budget is filled, but the money must go towards military mobility. I disagree, and a vote takes place.

The budget passes, but funds that could go to improving public transport instead go to ­reinforcing roads for the weight of military vehicles: win some, lose some.


11.30, and we take a short break. I meet up with a Swedish colleague and we discuss developments on night-trains over a coffee.

It’s not of huge relevance to Ireland, but it is good to hear that the Swedish Government is ensuring new sleeper trains will be provided next year, to speed sleeping travellers to their destinations as a low-carbon ­alternative to flying.

12 noon, and I take an elevator down to a multi-media floor where I record a short video ‘as Gaeilge’ for social media.

It is fifty years since Denmark and Ireland voted to join what was then known as the Common Market, and a short video together with Danish MEPs will celebrate.

I then grab a sandwich, and head back upstairs to meet with my colleagues to discuss upcoming legislation.


The European parliament divides its work into 20 different committees, and I sit on the Transport as well as the Research and Energy Committees.

I’ve just been selected as the ‘Rapporteur’ or facilitator of a new piece of legislation: the ‘European Performance of Buildings Directive.’

This draft law will ensure all buildings in Europe are upgraded to an ‘A-energy rating’ by the year 2050 and we need to get the details right.

As rapporteur my job is to liaise with all the political groups from 27 countries and get the draft law passed.

A Romanian MEP wants more focus on district-heating; a Portuguese colleague wants to phase out gas boilers sooner, and soon we’re haggling over dates and ­wording.


A deal will emerge in a Trialogue meeting with the European Commission and Energy Ministers in the coming months.

Later in Committee, I say that everyone deserves a ‘Hygge home’.

My use of the Danish word for ‘cosy’ raises a few eyebrows across the chamber.

In the late afternoon, I move on to another file: the Digital Services Act.

This law will temper the excesses of the big online media giants and ensure citizens have control over their personal info.

In a world where big data is increasingly valuable, we must also ensure small ­businesses can survive and prosper.

As the day ends, I hop on my bike and cycle to my apartment in the township of St. Gilles.

If I time things right, I’ll get to the local outdoor market before it closes and be able to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables to make a meal before catching some shut eye before another busy day begins.


March 28, 2022

first published

The Irish Sun

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