Visiting the EP?

Each working day, the European Parliament welcomes hundreds of visitors to its premises in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. Over five years the number of visitors has increased by almost 13%, with more than 300,000 people coming through the doors in 2010. But what do citizens make of their time in the EP? One bright Wednesday morning in April, we asked some of them.

Veni, vidi…vici

The EP attracts many student visitors, like Hanna and Felix from Bavaria, who came to Brussels as part of a scholarship programme. Hanna wanted to know “how the EU works and what say Bavaria has in the EU”, while 24-year-old physics and bionics student Felix was “really eager to learn more about the European system”.

Costantino from Udine in Italy was visiting as part of a school project. It was his first visit abroad with the school and he was very excited to be in Brussels, which is “one of the best cities in the world”.

Tracy, a teacher from the UK was here with 16 and 17-year-old students, not only because it is part of the curriculum, but because “they are coming up to voting age (and the visit) gives them an insight into politics”.

Visitors aren’t just from schools and universities, the EP attracts plenty of pensioners, party activists, journalists and even soldiers and priests. We accidently interviewed a politician, “disguised” as a regular visitor. As a Czech MP Pavel Staněk often visits the Parliament and although he is a eurosceptic, he would recommend all citizens visit to “see where their taxes are spent and how the decisions are taken in the EU”.

Hille from Denmark first visited the EP last year and enjoyed it so much that she decided to come back for more. The best part of the visit was the opportunity to meet her MEP in person. She was overawed by the size of the EP. “It is all very big,” she said.

Interested?

Book your group visit on-line or come and take the multimedia-guided individual visit (in Brussels) in any of the 23 official languages. Information visits for groups have proven very successful, but don’t expect a traditional guided tour.

Of course the EP is a workplace for thousands of people, so not all of its premises are open to visitors. That certainly doesn’t mean that there is nothing to see and an official is always available to give you a full briefing on the hows and whys of the institution. You will also get to visit the plenary chamber’s public gallery.

Open Days 2011

Once a year the EP throws open its doors to all comers. This year’s Open Days are on 7 May in Brussels and 8 May in Strasbourg, so if you are nearby on either of those days why not pop in and check out the EP.

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