MEP intern 2013 report - Henrietta McNeill

Henrietta McNeill, MEP Intern 2013

After a thorough application and interview process, I was selected as one of two EUCN postgraduate students to undertaken an internship in the European Parliament from September to early December 2013. I ended up interning with two Members of the European Parliament – Richard Ashworth (UK), and Hannu Takkula (Finland). Each was a different experience work-wise, but both offices were incredibly friendly and welcoming with shared lunches and dinners, and lots of laughs. I was able to attend the NZ-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and see how NZ fitted into it all as well.

In Richard’s office, I was given lots of constituency work, which involved solving people from the South East of England’s problems within the EU institutions, as well as working with local government to achieve things through the European Commission. Richard’s main interests (and Committees) were the budget, and agriculture, having previously been a farmer in Southland, NZ, where I am originally from. As I knew little about the budget, I was able to sneak into Assistants training courses, and learn about how it worked. I ended up writing a lot of media statements, written questions to the Commission, and Richard’s campaign strategy for social media. It is good to still see they are using the social media guidelines I wrote for the current elections.

In Hannu’s office, as I spoke very little Finnish, I was doing work that included writing articles, and following legislation changes and amendments on reports which Hannu was the shadow rapporteur for. This was really interesting for me, to see how legislation gets created, researched, compromised
upon and passed within the European Parliament. To see the process through, I was able to travel to Strasbourg with Hannu’s team for a voting week. Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and during that week, it was inspirational to be able to watch Malala Yousafzai receive her Sakharov Prize.

Living in Brussels, and its Euro-bubble, was fantastic. Not only for the wonderful food (Brussels has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else!) and culture, but also the people. My flat had 8 people of different nationalities in it (I was the only non-European), so I experienced different cultures, foods, and languages all the time. We were all interns in different areas of the Euro-bubble, from the Parliament, to the Council and Commission, to lobbyists and embassies – this was an insight in itself as to how many people are involved in the European Union concept and all the different ideas and actions that occur on a daily basis in Brussels.

I would like to thank the EUCN for giving me the opportunity to experience Brussels and the European Parliament – this was invaluable to be able to see in reality what I had only learnt about in textbooks. I made some great networks and friends, and I was also able to undertake research for my thesis. Because of this experience, and knowledge gained on this internships, I am now a policy analyst in NZ local government, and one of two NZ delegates for the Y20 Summit on global economic challenges (part of the G20 Summit) working with EU counter-parts.  I hope to return to Brussels in the future, and do much more with the European Union.