MEPs work tirelessly to make Europe a better place, but they would struggle to do so without the help of their assistants. Their work behind the scenes is vital as they take care of paperwork, preparations and links with citizens, the media and stakeholders. Find out more about what makes the assistants so special.
About the work
Each assistant can play a very different role. "Working as an assistant is like being a one-man band, you need to play different instruments at the same time. That's the most challenging and interesting part of the job. One day you might need to entertain and act as a tourist guide to a visitors group and a few hours after that you need to meet with lobbyists," says Guna Zake-Balta, assistant of Roberts Zīle, a Latvian member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Joel Hirv , who works for Estonian Liberal-Democrat Kristiina Ojuland, added: "Tasks include basically the whole spectrum of activities in the office, starting with drafting speeches and press releases to watering the plants in the office. The tasks are rather versatile, that's what makes this job interesting."
Assistants play an important part in helping MEPs with their political activities, for example by following committees or drafting amendments or reports. Martin Källstrand, assistant of Swedish Christian-Democrat Alf Svensson, said: "When there is a Strasbourg session, we divide all the committee and voting lists between the assistants so I do a third of the committees and a third of the voting recommendations to see there is nothing sensitive and we agree with the party line. If we don't, we do recommendations to vote differently and discuss the issues with the MEP.”
In addition assistants are heavily involved in maintaining contact with the home country and the constituency. Pilar Santamaría, assistant of Spanish Christian-Democrat Eva Ortiz Vilella, said: "My MEP wants to be a bridge between citizens and the European Union. Many times people call to say they have a problem. We always have to search and try to find the best solution through programmes or projects. It's quite challenging, but I enjoy being able to help people. You're always thinking what is best for the people, what is best for the region."
Some assistants have very specific tasks, such as for example communications. Linda Aziz, assistant of Swedish Liberal-Democrat Cecilia Wikström, said: "As a press officer, I am dealing with her social media, Facebook, blog. I also write press releases, deal with media relations in Sweden. I try to promote her as much as possible." Mari Saarteinen, who works as a communications officer for Finnish Liberal-Democrat Anneli Jäätteenmäki, added: "Communications is very important as it helps to close the gap between citizens and MEPs."
What they enjoy about the job
There is much to love about being an assistant at the Parliament. Mr Hirv said: "What I enjoy the most is pursuing some very specific issues. Since my member is working on human rights, we can really focus on human rights violations around the world."
Ms Santamaría added: "I really enjoy being able to help people and I meet very interesting people back home and at EU level. It's amazing."
Mr Källstrand said: It's such a dynamic and interesting working place. There are people from 28 countries [27 member states plus Croatia which is set to join next year] who all speak different languages. I love the atmosphere and the environment."