Group and individual visits to the EP
Around 450 000 persons from the EU and beyond visit the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg every year. Many of these visitors come as part of one of the more than 9000 groups and the number of individual visitors has been increasing in the past years.
The European Parliament believes that the public should have easy access to its proceedings and premises, because it sees transparency as important to the exercise of democratic rights within the European Union. As the cost of travelling to Brussels and Strasbourg may be prohibitive for many EU citizens due to the long distances involved, Parliament helps to cover the costs of parts of the groups (approx 80 000 visitors).
Visitors coming to Brussels can also visit the Parlamentarium and the House of European History, which are outside the European Parliament premises and open during the weekend (around 470.000 visitors in 2018). In Strasbourg, an exhibition space known as parlamentarium Simone Veil with 360 degree cinema and interactive tools is part of the visit. The Strasbourg premises of Parliament also host the student programme of Euroscola, which offers thousands of students between 16 to 18 years old the experience of being a member of parliament for a day.
Many visitors come to the Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg in groups to see the plenary chamber and learn about Parliament’s proceedings. They are either invited by MEPs or come on their own. They are welcomed by Parliament staff, who give a talk on the work and role of the European Parliament, and they may meet with Members of Parliament. In Strasbourg visitors outside sessions may book a guided tour through the highly symbolic Louise Weiss building, with or without multimedia guides.
Visitors can also come individually to the European Parliament. Around 80 000 individual visitors annually get an interactive multi-media guide to the gallery of the European Parliament's debating chamber in Brussels at designated times. They can also listen to a briefing or follow the plenary sessions. In Strasbourg, visit opportunities for individual visitors have been extended in 2017 and multi-media guide visits have recently been introduced. Around 40 000 visitors made use of these new possibility in 2018 and numbers are increasing.
A limited number of people can visit on the express invitation of a MEP with sponsorship by the Parliament. Such groups receive a subsidy which partially covers travel, accommodation costs and meals. (2 500 groups/year, approx. 80 000 visitors).
Each MEP may invite up to 110 sponsored visitors a year, in groups of at least 10 visitors. Members can invite up to 5 groups per year to Strasbourg during the plenary sessions or to Brussels. Visitors are welcomed by civil servants, who give them an interactive briefingon the EU and Parliament. They meet one or two Members of Parliament and can visit the chamber on its public gallery.
Applications and financial contributions are handled by European Parliament staff. The subsidy is paid by bank transfer, but a small part of the financial contribution (up to 40 EUR per visitor) can be paid to the leader of the group in order to have some ready cash on the day of the visit. The size of the subsidy is calculated on the basis of three factors that are multiplied with the number of visitors: travel cost: kilometer-based rate (€0.09 per kilometer) for the distance between the point of departure of the group and Brussels or Strasbourg, hotel costs in case of an overnight stay (60 EUR) and meal expenses (40 EUR). Only the actual costs are reimbursed.
Parliament organises annual open days in early May in Strasbourg and Brussels – in 2018 Strasbourg welcomed 9 000 visitors and Brussels 15 000. The open days in 2019 will take place on 04 May in Brussels an on 19 May in Strasbourg.