A better follow-up after meetings with MEPs

During the European Youth Event in Strasbourg in 2018, we held a session called “Meeting your representatives: What happens next?“, where we discussed with Terry Reintke (MEP), Brando Benifei (MEP) and Loes Rutten (AEGEE-Europe) about how the follow-up after meetings of MEPs (and politicians in general) and (young) people could be improved. Here are the outcomes!

How can you, as a MEP improve the follow-up after meetings?

  • Tell young people that they can approach you! By this you will also get input from the younger generation.
  • Be brave and try out more interactive formats! Young people feel taken more seriously when they can ask questions and discuss instead of only listening to speeches.
  • When you take the ideas of young people with you and work on them, also let them know about this in a proactive follow-up, otherwise they do not know you are working on it.
  • Be honest about what you can do and do not give promises to people that you cannot live up to.
  • Push for more trainings about social media usage and how to interact with citizens amongst newly elected MEPs. Also you can hire young interns with expertise on social media usage!
  • Inform yourself about the different social media channels and how they can be used! E.g. Twitter is in many countries only useful to reach people inside the political or journalistic bubble. Find out which channels people use in your area!
  • Try out a Facebook Live session!
  • If you do not have time to stay for the whole panel, think of coming at the end instead of at the beginning. Then you can get a summary and answer questions afterwards.
  • Not everyone has time to invest a lot of time to understand complex issues. Keep this in mind when you talk to citizens. Say it simple and short and avoid political slang. Many complex words can be replaced by every day words.
  • Use also offline methods such as the post. Answer citizen’s questions offline and online!

How you, as a young person help to improve the interaction with MEPs?

  • Check what MEPs do after you met them on an event! If they promised to work on something, write them later to check up on it.
  • If you write to the MEP after a meeting, tell them where you met, what you discussed. This way it’s easier for them to remember and react.
  • Keep your expectations realistic, MEPs can only act within their competences and have a full agenda. Maybe their timetable allows only 30 mins for a meeting.
  • Use your time wisely: Approach them with specific and concrete ideas. The more concrete, the higher the chances they can do something about it and will follow up on them.
  • When you invite MEPs to an event, also think of those that normally do not interact with young people often.
  • Have a goal for an event – this way you increase your chances of having an impact and have a more concrete outcome of a discussion!
  • When you invite MEPs explain them the format of your event well. Using new formats like fishbowl discussions or world cafés is good for interaction with the audience, but some MEPs might feel uncomfortable, so reduce their fear of it through explanations.
  • Also contact or talk to the MEPs assistants! They have knowledge about how the parliament works, what their MEP is doing and mostly handle the MEPs calendar. They talk to their MEP regularly and can bring forward ideas. Especially for less approachable MEPs, this might be a good starting point.
  • A topic might be easier brought to many MEPs by using current media attention on a similar issue. Cooperate with youth organisations and invite the press. Together you have more power!
  • Go and vote, otherwise many politicians don’t care about you!
  • You might even want to candidate – we need more young politicians.