What does a day at the European Parliament look like? Committee meetings, every now and then the big occasion of the Plenary, people rushing hither and thither clutching documents, meetings, screenings, expert witnesses, MEPs, eurocrats, journalists, visitors and lobbyists and… and… and, no… Much more than just that
Parliament is not just the shiny megalith looming in the distance of most Brussels vistas. It is also the bubbling cauldron of its very own esplanade and, of course Luxembourg square itself, public spaces that have been taken over by the institution and are, in turn, taking it over themselves, a merry fair in honour of St Everything-for-Everyone, always on the move, always alive, sometimes created by parliament (or one of the political groups or MEPs), sometimes directed at Parliament, sometimes just there, because its a great place to be or, even more importantly, to be seen.
So this is how a day -based on perfectly real events- looks like in this, the other people's parliament, : Right in front of the imposing entrance to the building, the sometimes bizarre contraptions of "mobility week" seek to show there is an alternative to cars, but also that the way to go is the way of eco-food represented by paper bags of radishes and a healthy sandwich bar.
They are almost certainly right, the way things are already going, but somehow I'm not enthralled by visions of a future of bicycles with wooden baby-bins, electric skates and eco-conscious turnip-and-carrot bauernbrot sandwiches…
Whatever… Today they share the esplanade with Crime of the Century, a man with a bullhorn balancing on the steel and glass entrance to the railway station screaming something about Transylvania, Armenia, the Dutch mafia and a million Euros allegedly stolen from him in the "crime of the century". He wants "Mr Schulz, Mr Barroso" to intervene but only the fire brigade shows up and reducing from hectoring the amused passer-by to begging the firemen to not pull him off the roof… All through the bullhorn of course.
Then you have the actual slow food people, a demonstration-cum-happening by an apparently motley crew of eco-farmers, eco-activists, a happy human bee and a Santa-bearded semi-clochard waving a Jolly Roger and a rainbow "peace" flag. They serve chickpea and-something-else soup but at least it was in real plates with real spoons and they do the washing too.
But their message (eat local, bio, eco etc) is probably being lost, for while the cognoscenti verdi are listening to speech after worthy speech on the esplanade, on place LUX real farmers, butchers and bakers from the Ardennes did the real farmer, butcher and baker stuff, selling their cheeses, sausages and ham pies to the square's denizens. There was also a gaulish looking brass band in traditional dress and clogs, but this is no demonstration. It is a market and it has about a 100 times more customers than the eco-warriors on the esplanade… But such are the vagaries of life: faced with the choice between expensive sausage and free soup, people go for the sausage…
And so another day on the open-air peoples' parliament and market draws to a close, as the sun gives way to yet another Brussels squall and the roads around the square become progressively unbreathable and impassable by the thousands of cars trying to get home… If only they were all riding the e-scooter. All except me, of course.