Zags take Brussels – Day 2

On Tuesday, May 16th, our class walked together to the European Parliament building in Brussels, Belgium. Upon arriving, we were greeted by a novice guide who took us to the set where we would simulate the legislative process as acting Members of the European Parliament (MEP).  

European Parliament (MEP)

Our class broke into groups representing four different parties:  Environmental (with a block representing 15% of the Parliament), Liberty (20%), Solidarity (30%), and Traditional (35%). Each party contained an MEP from a different country.  As an MEP, we were tasked with negotiating two proposed directives:  Water Solidarity and Personal Identification. By proposing a solution to distribute and manage the EU’s water resources, the Water Solidarity directive addressed potential water scarcity issues in some EU nation states . The Personal Identification directive referred to the process of inserting microchips into citizens ostensibly for safety and health reasons.


Role Play Game (MEP)

During the process we were able to “interview” experts and voters via touchscreens, were filmed in quick debates, helped formulate the party stance, and negotiate the final bill and amendments in an attempt to pass the proposed legislation. The first round of negotiations did not reach a majority ruling on the directives requiring a second reading. As the second round of discussions began we were notified of a fictional emergency.  This new information put the proposed rules into stark relief: an earthquake that further disrupted water delivery and also necessitated search and rescue operations that could have benefited by the use of microchips to locate survivors. This cast a new light on the second round of negotiations, whereby both proposals were passed with mild amendments.

This exercise exceeded many of our expectations for a common role-playing assignment. Throughout the activity  we were thrust acutely into the scenario, moving through different rooms to interact with both real and fictional counterparts. Such a project allowed us to more accurately experience the pressures an actual MEP would face while negotiating terms for legislation.  MEPs must collect information from concerned citizens of their own nations other members of the parliament, lobbyists, and any other interested parties and formulate their position on the issue.  They must constantly evaluate the available information and their position in the context of the current events and environment, all the while under the pressure of time.  The simulation also highlighted the difficulties a smaller party may have in defending their position since their vote does not carry a lot of weight. As a result of the simulation, the students were able to form a realistic view on the complexities of negotiating new laws while giving us a foundation for how the European Parliament operates. 

European Parliament (MEP)

The simulation, although enlightening and fun, left everyone feeling a bit exhausted.  Afterwards, the group parted ways for either a leisurely stroll back to the Steigenberger Grand Hotel or an afternoon of visiting the local museums and sites. Some of the highlights were the Park du Cinquantenaire, a Romanesque structure providing a beautiful view of the surrounding parks and The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military.  The museum offered a bloody historical journey from medieval to current times. We also viewed the nearby Museum of Natural History, which covered dinosaurs and neanderthals alike. Later in the evening the group reconvened for a reflection on the day’s activities.  Everyone agreed on the value of the European Parliament experience when it comes to understanding the process for passing legislation in the European Union. Overall, the experience set the stage for the following day’s scheduled outing to another branch of the EU, the European Commission. 


Park du Cinquantenaire, Brussels






Written by,

Miranda Giorgi, Erik Hurson & Ian Wallace

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