Group and individual visits to the EP
Around 450 000 people 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 more than 9,000 groups with individual visitors increasing in past years.
The European Parliament believes that public access to its proceedings and premises should be easy, 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, the Parliament helps to cover part of visitor group expenses (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 a 360 degree cinema and interactive tools are part of the visit. The Strasbourg premises of Parliament also host the Euroscola student programme, 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 MEPs. 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, opportunities to visit for individual visitors were extended in 2017 and multi-media guide visits have recently been introduced. Around 40 000 visitors made use of these new opportunities in 2018 and numbers are increasing.
A limited number of people can visit on the express invitation of an 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 or Brussels during the plenary sessions.
Visitors are welcomed by civil servants, who give them an interactive briefing on the EU and Parliament. They meet one or two MEPs 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 per visitor) can be paid to the leader of the group in order to have some cash ready on the day of the visit. The size of the subsidy is calculated on the basis of three factors that are multiplied by the number of visitors.
Travel cost: kilometre-based rate at €0.09 per km for the distance between the point of departure of the group and Brussels or Strasbourg, hotel costs in case of an overnight stay (€60) and meal expenses (€40). Only 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.