It was a toasty day in Brussels, odd for the city, but we were all grateful for it nonetheless. We approached the Parliamentarium with eager hearts. Walking into the building, it was incredible that such an amazing museum would be free to the public. It truly showed how much the European Parliament cares for educating the people of the European Union.
The museum is extremely interactive and narrated entirely by an audio guide. You are able to walk up to pictures and artifacts and understand the complete history behind them. Initially, you are introduced to the concept of European integration, and then the topic is expounded upon as you venture further into the museum. We were able to see the parties that the European Parliament is comprised of (which would be helpful later in our visit).
The museum finished with people being able to type their hopes for the future of the European Union, which I found to be an uplifting note to end on.
The museum was just the start of our visit to the Parliamentarium. The group meet up again in anticipation of our role-playing game. This section of our visit began with us entering into a room with four televisions and stadium seating. It was here we were informed of our new roles as MEPs (Members of the European Parliament). We were each assigned a political group that we would be apart of; Ecology, Liberty, Solidarity, and Traditional. These groups seemed to be generalizations of current political parties in the Parliament.
The two directives we would be dealing with were the Water Solidarity Directive and Personal Identification Directive. When we were released to our parties, I was put on the Personal Identification working group. We were sent to “talk” to citizens, researchers, and NGOs, as well as, left to handle the office. The office portion was wild to participate in because of how busy it got. There would be calls and emails coming in constantly.
Finally, once they decided we had accumulated enough information, we were sent into a debate. Each party was asked questions directed at their viewpoints and given 15 seconds to respond. After this whirlwind debate ceased, we were sent to our working groups to discuss amendments on the directives that would allow them to pass in the Parliament. Each party had objectives they would not budge on, one of ours being the stance against using chip implantations for security reasons.
Once amendments were agreed upon, we went back to the full parliament to vote on the amendments. We voted to pass the amendments, which was a feat with our strong differences on position. The problem arose when the Council gave their opinion on the amendments. They did not support our decisions. In fact, they seemed to want entirely different things, so we were sent back to research more. Suddenly, we got news that a tragedy had occurred. There had been an earthquake that had devasted an entire region. They news reported on the fact that the trans-European water pipeline had indeed survived, so the people were not without water. We were also informed that those who had been implanted with chips were easily found in the wreckage. What a coincidence this would happen right in the middle of our negotiations?!
Going back to the working group, the Council was willing to negotiate with us. I think we were all willing to give on some things because of the disaster we had just witnessed and the effects the chips had had on the situation. The final amendments our group agreed on left each of us with a sour taste in our mouths because we had given up some of our core objectives, but alas we returned again to vote on the directives. Both were passed with a minimal margin.
I think this role-playing helped to put the harsh reality of these negotiations into focus. It is a tedious process that leads to more disappointments than wins. Sometimes your parties’ core objectives are lost in favor of the majority. I also think it helps to show how current events can sway decisions. While these situations are important to the decision-making process, they may sway decisions too quickly without fully processed thought behind the decisions. Overall, the process is chaotic and can be disappointing, but it is a necessity for the European Union to continue progressing.