Indeed, I survived the Luxembunker, but I’m not sure the delegations will.
I got home at 23.30, sank down on my couch with my wife and watched a movie, and I’ll go get myself a nice snack and enjoy it in my robe as soon as I’ve finished writing this.
That’s not what the ministers and their delegations are experiencing.
The interpreters at the Agriculture Ministers’ meeting were scheduled to be on duty until midnight, we learned this afternoon. Later, people familiar with the matter informed us journalists, there will be nightly discussions and general haggling into the wee hours, until times probably ujnknown to the rest of mankind, and then they’re supposed to be back at tomorrow’s leg of the meeting starting at 10.00. (I won’t be at Day Two for other reasons, but that’s another story.)
Moreover, since these are ministers and delegations from all the four…teen corners of the EU, most of them have had to set off at who knows what hour this morning – some testified to having rolled out of bed at 05.00. A full 24-hour shift… followed by another one. And then back to the usual soup of urgent issues, parliamentary questions, documents and issues piling up, public visits, meetings with voters, industrialists, organisations, reporters digging their noses in the wastepaper baskets, etc etc etc etc.
The fun thing is that the EU – well, not the Agriculture Ministers, but still – has recently adopted a working hours directive that severely curbs workers’ ability all over the whole EU to work too long hours. Hospitals and other shift-working places have already had to reschedule their staff quite extensively to comply with the new rules.
And yet… the EU ministers fail to apply the working hour rules to themselves.
I raised this issue with one delegation member, who immediately promised that the EU’s new working hour rules would most certainly be applied when her country took the rotating presidency. Or so we hope.
But as I sit here, comfortable and snug in my sofa in my own home with my family close by, I can’t help but think. Yes, their jobs may be well paid. Yes, they may have all earthly power and glory within their area at their command or something like that. Yes, they may even be flying Learjets through the night.
But for all the perks and fringe benefits in the world… I certainly wouldn’t like to trade places with them.