Tuesdays in Strasbourg are always full of action. This is what it all looked like today:
6.45. My Nokia Communicator provides me with a gentle wake-up call. (What do you mean product placement?) I’m trying to get my brain in gear. I’m supposed to be live on Finnish radio at 7.15. I decide to open my vocal cords by singing in the shower. Why is my neighbour banging on the wall? My humming of Sibelius Finlandia is flawless.
7.00. The producer of the radio programme calls me to check that I am awake, at least physically. I brief her on the latest developments on the distribution of seats in the European Parliament. She promises to call me back at 7.15. I brush my enormous teeth.
7.15. I’m on air. ”Things are looking good for Finland. We are not going to lose more seats than agreed in 2009. We might even keep our 13 seats in 2014”. I am relatively happy with the interview. At least I woke up.
7.40. I arrive to the Parliament with a French colleague. I’m definately a morning person. I love to be at the office before everyone else. I buy the Financial Times. They have a supplement on Finland. Good PR. The interview on our Finance Minister (and head of my party), Jyrki Katainen, is very positive. I send Jyrki an SMS. He is also pleased with the interview.
8.00. I insert the first comments to yesterday’s blog entry, which can also be found on the homepage of The Economist. I’m happy that the debate gets going. I answer a few e-mails and check out the Finnish media. Tero Pitkämäki, who won a gold medal in javelin in Osaka, gets a hero’s welcome. He deserves every bit of the glory. In Finland we love sports.
8.30. Off to our traditional press breakfast. We talk about the distribution of seats in the EP and next year’s EU budget.
9.10. Time to go to the plenary. We are debating the Internal Market. My colleague, Jacques Toubon, has done good work. In my intervention I praise liberal economics and condemn protectionism. God bless free movement!
The Parliament building from the other side of the river.
10.00. I meet Commissioner Siim Kallas. We talk about lobbying. The Commission is drafting stricter rules on lobbying. I like Kallas. He has one of the toughest jobs in the Commission. It is not easy to manage the Commission’s administration, or lobbyists for that matter.
10.30. Time to save the Baltic Sea. Some 50 MEPs get together to listen to a Nord Stream representative. He tells us about the gas pipeline which is to be laid down in the Baltic Sea. It was agreed by Putin and Schröder a couple of years ago. The representative is convincing, but the MEPs are not overwhelmingly convinced about the environmental impact of the project.
11.15. The phone keeps ringing. Journalists are interested in the division of seats in the EP, so am I.
11.30. The bell rings. Time to go and vote. The plenary boasts two new lightboards. They are funky. They even show you a graphic on who votes for (green) and against (red). We vote on the single market, inland transport of dangerous goods, and better regulation, among other things. The world is a better place after the votes, at least that’s what I tell myself.
11.55. The votes are over in record time. We often sit and press buttons and lift hands for the better part of two hours. The President of Portugal is scheduled to give a speech. I skive off to meet a couple of journalists. We talk about how to sell the EU to the general public. No easy feat. We turn on the cameras. I talk. And I talk a bit more.
Check out the new voting board above the head of my colleague. Cool graphics.
13.00. After a quick salad I head back to my office. I check my e-mail. My three assistants – Henrik, Tuomas and Titta – have kept the office alive. I get briefed on the rest of the afternoon. The debate in the blog seems to be moving. I read the comments with interest.
14.00. I meet my Finnish party colleagues Ville Itälä, Piia-Noora Kauppi and Eija-Riitta Korhola. We go through some administrative details and have a laugh, as always.
14.45. Time to prepare the Committee on Budgetary Control. I am wearing a black shiny suit, a black shirt and a lime green tie. A Spanish colleague thinks that I look like a pimp. I take it as a compliment…
15.45. The institutional nerds of our centre-right political group get together to talk about the seats in the EP and the negotiations on the Constitution turned Reform Treaty. The room is full of former ministers. I feel humbled.
16.30. The BBC’s Today programme gives me a ring. They ask me to participate in a live radio chat tomorrow morning. I am flattered. Must call mother- and father-in-law in Solihull. They might want to tune in. I stress the word ”might”.
Talking to Radio Kajaani.
16.45. I give an interview to the public Radio in Kajaani, north of Finland. Good chat about the public image of the EU.
17.15. Time for a run. I went for an interval session. Four times 1500 metres at a 70-95 percent heart rate.
18.15. I get back to the office rejuvenated. The human body was made for physical exercise.
19.30. I pop my head into our group meeting. Our political group (EPP-ED) has some 288 centre-right MEPs from 27 EU countries. We vote pretty much as a block, though some national delegations, not least the British Conservatives, have a tendency to vote differently on a few occasions. On Tuesday nights we prepare the key votes for the rest of the week.
20.30. Time to get some Sushi from my favourite restaurant in Strasbourg, Osaka.
22.00. Back in the hotel. Nothing like ending your day with a good book and bad TV.