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EU institutions open their doors to the public

Europe Day is the celebration of peace and unity in Europe and also marks the day of the Schuman Declaration. Every year, to celebrate Europe Day on 9th May, the EU institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg open their doors to the public.


The big and respected buildings renowned for being that place where important decisions are made, like the Parliament and the Commission, are filled with people eager to find out what goes on behind the scenes. Other EU offices worldwide also organize activities throughout the day. Each year, thousands of visitors participate in visits, debates, workshops and other events. As a person who has just moved to Brussels, as well as being an intern working for the UN and not for an EU institution, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to find out more about the EU scene.

The day started with a visit to the Parliament. My friend and I were not the only ones who had decided to make the most of this opportunity - the courtyard was filled with people who had brought their friends, children and even dogs along. The scene inside was probably a little different to that on a normal 9 to 5 day. Numerous people at stands competed for the attention of the visitors by distributing all kinds of goodies – and we were eager to have them! Thanks to EPP (European People’s Party), I now have a new grocery bag, while the S & D (Progressive Alliance of Socialist and Democrats) distributed balloons (I left those for the kids) and ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) were offering a t-shirt with my picture printed on it, had I had the dedication to queue!

Since the idea was to get to know to the workings and the doings of the Parliament, the marketing team behind the event had done very good job of designing the programme and entertainment. During the day, we visited several different meeting rooms, mailboxes and learnt about the work of an interpreter. We were given the opportunity to try simultaneous interpreting ourselves, but I think I’ll leave that challenge to the professionals! There was even a presentation on the different kinds of chairs they have in each conference room!

Smooth transportation between the institutions was guaranteed by a mini-EU train, which, despite its name, transported both adults and children between the different buildings. As many of the institutions were open, but we only had so much time, we opted to visit the Parliament and the Commission. In the Commission, we were told about what happens on a daily basis in the Commission and had our "visitor's picture"  taken outside the Berlaymont and printed on a big postcard. The Commission’s new Visitor Centre has also just opened, so we were able to take a tour around there as well.

All in all, the day was a great success. Armed with many goodie bags, we headed back home satisfied with the day’s programme. As 2013 is the “European Year of Citizens”, it is a great idea to organise something like this to promote a more open EU – an organisation that is not just a bureaucratic mass of paperwork but actually an institution run by and for the people of the European Union.

Laura Sulin is the Editor-in-Chief of Internal Voices and an intern at the UK and Ireland desk of the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC).


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