I’m just home after having endured one of the most unpleasant experiences I can remember in an EU institution. Really remarkable.
I’ve had meetings in the European Parliament on two consecutive days (yesterday and today) with two different British MEPs. When signing in for the visitor’s pass at the ASP building yesterday I said I would return today for a meeting with a different MEP, and was it therefore possible to have a pass for 2 days. Yes, the lady at the desk said, you will just have to be accompanied by a member of staff (i.e. the assistant of the MEP on the second day). So on the first day in I went. Security had a problem with my computer, wanting to log its serial number on one of their forms. No clue why – if I were a hacker I could disguise myself online anyway. I suggest it’s rather in order to keep more security staff employed. But anyway, procedure was followed.
I returned this morning, and met some other guests of the second MEP at the entrance. It took a full 45 minutes for them to get passes as apparently the rules for which assistants are allowed to sign in MEPs have now changed. I’m OK, I said to the assistant today, I have the pass from yesterday. All you have to do is accompany me.
No, oh no. A nasty little slimy snake of a security man by the name of Vincent Chiarappa wanted to do the petty bureaucratic thing and not only inspect all visitors’ visitor passes, but check all the names of visitors matched the names of the MEPs listed on the passes. Contrary to what I had been told on the first day apparently visitors have to be accompanied by a staff member of the same MEP, not the assistant of any MEP. As my name was not on the paper for the right MEP (although I had a badge AND someone to accompany me) there was no way Mr Chiarappa was going to let me past.
“You have to leave and sign in again!” was his reply. Sorry, to stand in a queue for another 45 minutes? “Can we call the other MEP’s office and get someone to come down and accompany Jon inside?” was met with a “No, no calls from here, you have to leave”. The question of why the person issuing the badge had given the wrong information (if it even is wrong?) was met with the startling response “They work in another team”. Yes, Chiarappa, they work about 20 metres away from you! He was ignorant, rude, unhelpful and downright obstructive.
No amount of reason could change his mind, and indeed an increasingly heated argument in French and English ensued, leading him to the point of saying he would have the security expel me from the Parliament. Just before this happened the assistant of the first MEP had been summoned and could accompany me in, not before Chiarappa had noted my name and the assistant’s name on a scrap of paper. 1 hour after arriving I managed to get to my meeting.
Seriously, what the hell is this? There are security rules, fine. But how can two security people working 20m from each other not apply the same rules? How can any sensible and pragmatic solution to the issue (calling the first MEP’s office) be met with a flat no? It’s not as if the European Parliament is very secure anyway, and three of the other guests went in with laptops without security noting any serial numbers in the way they had for me on the first day.
As a citizen on the European Union the European Parliament is there to serve me. I am not a taxpayer just in order to keep people like Vincent Chiarappa in a job. I want a quick and efficient application of the rules and indeed the security as a whole, and a flexible and pragmatic approach in the case of difficulties. The European Parliament security personnel are not even remotely close to achieving this.