With a lot of dedication and the perfect timing

Unlike me, Marinus van Greuningen is not working completely from home, but prefers to be available at the scene of action. Curiously, I wait for the moment when van Greuningen, who is responsible for the drivers and the car fleet of the European Parliament, switches on his zoom camera for our interview. For a brief moment outside my limited view of the computer screen, the Dutchman, who lives in Belgium, answers a colleague in French, but then turns attentively to the video call to conduct our conversation in perfect German. The 65-year-old was meant to be retired long ago, but there is more that connects him to the EU Parliament than his multilingualism: “I am perhaps the longest-serving official in the EU,” he says, with a certain pride in his voice. He knows what is important in the job, which is why he is also the one whose expertise was not to be dispensed with in the safety-related switch from external drivers to the EU’s own fleet of 120 permanent employees. After all, his 44 years in various posts in the Parliament have taught him how things work!

Nevertheless, even after such a long time, there are always new developments that challenge the young-at-heart head of department. For example, the vehicle fleet is to become CO2-neutral by 2024, for which hybrid, electric and hydrogen cars are gradually being introduced. This keeps van Greuningen busy in his daily work, as does managing the drivers, who are available from 7 a.m. to midnight. Of course, such working hours are not always easy and sometimes lead to some dissatisfaction in the team, but still the staff is “almost like one big family”.

Like everywhere else, however, there was no getting around the issue of Covid-19. Van Greuningen is disappointed that the successful handling of the crisis went almost unmentioned by the press, so the dedicated transport supervisor wants to share the success of the Covid-19 strategy in his department. The room with normally a number of 80 available drivers is hardly suitable for Covid-19, so the number has been reduced to 12. Moreover, MEPs working from home clearly need fewer drivers than usual. So, what does one do with the fleet of 120 drivers? Covid-19 has often shown us, necessity is the mother of invention – as in this case. Instead of losing their jobs, the drivers were sent to deliver food to hospitals, feed the homeless and transport care workers – clearly a win-win situation! Communication, as with so many topics in the European Union, is crucial, and this is where van Greuningen sees a difficulty for the EU, which too often leaves its citizens in the dark about successful projects.

Now let’s get back to the daily business, which van Greuningen talks about with enthusiasm: What does a driver need to get the MEPs of the EU from point A to point B? Simply being able to drive is not enough, he can decisively say, having done this job himself for a long time: one must not lack the ability to speak several languages, in addition, discretion and reliability are indispensable qualities. Beyond the soft skills, however, a technical understanding is also of great importance.

Clearly visible, even through the computer screen, the 65-year-old still has a lot of energy, he is highly motivated and, with his astonishingly long career in Parliament, cannot be missing from our Faces of Parliament series.  “In the moment I get into the car and don’t feel like doing that anymore, I’m gone the day after.” However, this still sounds highly hypothetical!

For him, the EU is a successful institution, not a miracle solution, but the right way to find common solutions despite cultural differences – and a lot has already been achieved in the last 44 years he was present! The convinced European would like to conclude with one simple message: “Vote!” Only those who vote can complain about politics afterwards.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Hannah Schweren, Bad Homburg, July 2021

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