The job: Pro and con

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(Rafael comes from Germany and works as an accredited parliamentary assistant to an Austrian member of the European Parliament, which would ‘not be possible without the EU’, he insisted upon. Rafael deals with foreign affairs and energy files and we both started our positions more or less at the same time, which I thought was comforting at the time, as I wasn’t the only new kid on the bloc. Why, I decided to ask him about his pro and con of doing the job we’re doing.)
PRO: – I’m very happy with my job because I feel it has an impact. I work on legislation, meaning texts that will influence the life of 500 million European citizens and I find it very rewarding. I mean, even if I only manage to change one wording, or influence the opinion or expressions of my member – that is huge in itself! So yes, I love my job and I don’t see myself doing any other. But I could change my mind later. Where would I never see myself working? Mmm. For an oil company! If I worked there I would probably not believe in my job and do it so wrong that it would sabotage them. Hey, wait a minute… (He laughs)
CON: (16:20) – What I don’t like about my role is being in the shadow of a politician; having to follow the decision of a person or a group of people – when talking about the political group. I do a lot of work but at the end of the day the decision is his, not mine to take. This can feel frustrating at times, but at the same time, we are not voted by citizens to be here – politicians are. We are only here to help them.

(The European Parliament is made up of 751 members and each MEP can recruit up to three accredited assistants. Rough calculation, there are about 2000 parliamentary assistants of various age ranges, nationalities, backgrounds and ideological affiliations, working in the shadows and being not only overly committed but also at times overworked. What does it mean to be a parliamentary assistant? Being behind the curtains of the EU, sometimes getting lost in translation in committee meetings and literally lost in between the corridors, juggling the portfolio of your boss and the demands of your colleagues and delegation, following the internal decisions of your political group and trying to follow those of other political groups, drafting documents and amendments for legislation on time while paying attention to NGOs e-mailing and lobbyists calling… all of this while overlooking the dubious remarks of citizens, friends and family still wondering what you’re actually doing for a living. So – have a sweet thought for APAs today!)

/ Photo and story by Soundous Boualam /

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