My Week in Berlin
I would like to take you through a week of sessions of the Bundestag in Berlin. The Bundestag is in session approximately 23 weeks of the year. During these weeks, I have to be in Berlin and attend various meetings and appointments.
Even though no two session weeks are the same and I often have to change my plans at very short notice because, for example, an additional vote is due in plenary, there is a certain rhythm to a session week that runs from Monday to Friday. That’s what I want to show you now.
The Bundestag consists not only of the Reichstag building, which you certainly know. The Bundestag, with all its meeting rooms, offices, canteens, etc., is spread over many different buildings in the government district. The buildings I’m in during a session week are colored pink here. But there are a few more.
My week begins in the Otto-Wels-Haus, where my own office is located.
The Otto-Wels-Haus (OWH) is located directly on the street Unter den Linden near the Brandenburg Gate. The house is named after Otto Wels, a member of the Reichstag for the SPD during the Weimar Republic. He became famous for his speech against the NSDAP’s Enabling Act on March 5, 1933.
In the OWH (all buildings of the Bundestag have an abbreviation), I have office space for my staff and myself, together with other members of parliament. My office is on the 5th floor.
As you can see, Aachen is also strongly represented in my Berlin office. 😀
On Monday, my team and I always start the week with a digital meeting in which we discuss the next week’s appointments and projects. After that, I usually have initial discussions with other members of parliament or, for example, with representatives from universities.
On Monday evening, the NRW state group, i.e. all SPD members of the Bundestag from North Rhine-Westphalia, will meet. As a rule, however, the meeting is not held in the Bundestag but in the state representation of North Rhine-Westphalia. This building is not part of the Bundestag but is located a bit away.
On Tuesday morning, I have to go to Schadowstraße. The SPD parliamentary group’s working group on education and research meets there.
All deputies who are members of a committee work together in the Group’s working groups. I am a full member of the Committee on Education, Research, and Technology Assessment. On Tuesday morning, we prepare for the committee meeting on the following Wednesday and discuss longer-term projects in education and research policy.
After the AG meeting, I usually work for a few more hours in my office at OWH.
There, I discuss the preparations for upcoming appointments and meetings with my team. I also often work on speeches I give in the Bundestag or make phone calls.
On Tuesday afternoon, I’m going to the Reichstag building for the first time of the week. There, the meeting of the SPD parliamentary group takes place on the so-called fraction level. This is one floor above the plenary hall, where all the parliamentary groups have their meeting rooms.
The meeting room of the SPD parliamentary group is also named after Otto Wels. All 207 SPD members of the Bundestag take part in the parliamentary group meeting. Olaf Scholz and the ministers of the SPD in the federal government will also be present.
In the parliamentary group meeting, we prepare for this week’s plenary session of the Bundestag and discuss the current political situation.
Wednesday morning, the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment meets in the Paul Löbe House, as do all committees. Laws are discussed in the committees before they are voted on in the plenary session of the Bundestag.
All deputies have specific substantive responsibilities within a committee. I am responsible for the topic of Transfer & Innovation for my Group. This means that I take care of the universities of applied sciences, the establishment of the German Agency for Transfer and Innovation, and industrial and mobility research.
Then, at noon on Wednesday, the plenary sessions of the Bundestag will begin in the plenary hall of the Reichstag building.
Plenary sessions are held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We do not have fixed seats in the plenary hall, but there is a fixed seating order for the parliamentary groups. On the far left of the Presidium sits the Left Party, then the SPD, the Greens, the FDP, the CDU/CSU and on the far right, the AfD.
Thursday and Friday, I am in the Reichstag building most of the time because of the plenary sessions. Especially on Thursday, the sessions of the Bundestag can last until late in the evening.
Not all deputies are present in plenary sessions at all times. Attendance is required when laws are being discussed that our respective committees are responsible for.
As a rule, the Bundestag votes openly by show of hands. There are also secret ballots and so-called roll call votes, in which all deputies must participate. The voting results are then documented on the Bundestag page.
Of course, I also have to eat something in between. I meet up with other MPs or my team for lunch, for example in the canteen at Jakob-Kaiser-Haus.
I am one of the secretaries of the Bundestag. The secretaries assist the President of the Bundestag in the conduct of the session. When I have a secretary duty, I sit either to the right or to the left of the president. In addition, we provide support for the implementation of voting.
The lectern of the Bundestag, from which all speeches are made during a plenary session, is located in front of the Presidium.
When we are not in the plenary, we still spend most of our time in the Reichstag building and hold discussions or take part in appointments, for example in one of the corridors of the Reichstag building.
And at the end of the day, after a meeting, we sometimes go out for a beer, for example here in the German Parliamentary Society behind the Reichstag building.