YESTERDAY was Europe Day, and this year I celebrated in a slightly unconventional way.

Rather than cracking open a bottle of bubbly or waving a flag, I rewatched Parlement, the French sitcom about the European Parliament.

Yes, you read that right – a comedy about the EU. Who would have thought it?

When I first heard about Parlement, I didn’t know what to expect. Who would want to watch a show about EU institutions, which many people find opaque and confusing at the best of times? But Parlement manages that brilliantly.

The show is a triumph of storytelling, humour and education all rolled into one.

Created by Noé Debré, Parlement is a co-production of France, Belgium, and Germany, and was first broadcast on France Télévisions’ VOD platform in April 2020 – a welcome distraction during the first lockdown.

The show is performed in three languages: French, English, and German. It was so successful that a second season was launched last year for Europe Day, and a third season is currently in production. It is now broadcast on television for millions of viewers to watch.

So, what is Parlement about?

The show follows Samy, a young, naive, and inexperienced parliamentary assistant who arrives in Brussels to work for Michel Specklin, a clueless, work-shy but endearing centrist French MEP.

On his very first day, he is tricked into taking on the responsibility of championing an amendment on the controversial practice of shark finning, which involves removing the fins of sharks and discarding the rest of the animal’s body back into the ocean, a highly contentious issue, passed by the European Parliament.

So he needs to learn fast, understand who his friends and allies are, and who to keep away from.

Along for the ride are Ingeborg, the ruthless and manipulating German commissioner, her crazy assistant Torsten, the omniscient, hyper-cultured, multilingual, politically neutral and super classy civil servant Eamon, the Brexit-loving Tory MEP Sharon who doesn’t really understand what the UK got itself into, and Rose, her assistant, who has witnessed her boss undergo a transformation from a moderate Tory in favour of the European Union to a staunch advocate of Brexit after being “radicalised” on the internet.

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As you can probably gather, the UK’s departure from the EU features quite heavily in the first season.

One of the funniest moments in the series is when Sharon tries to solve the Irish border conundrum, first by suggesting putting a border in the Irish Sea, then by asking why there couldn’t just be “something a bit like Deliveroo, chuck in some Bitcoins and a bit of blockchain, and then just track it all with a massive GPS”… something later presented by the media as “a so-called technological solution” to Brexit.

Not only is this show very funny, but it is also very educational.

As Samy gains a better understanding of how the European institutions function, so do we. What were once abstract notions about the EU suddenly start to make sense.

For example, the place that lobbyists occupy in the European Parliament and their relationship with EU lawmakers is explored in detail. We also get an inside look at the various bureaucracies and processes that shape the EU, all presented in an accessible and engaging way.

You might think that a show like this – which satirically shows all the machinations and compromises that water down much-needed reforms and legislation – could make people loathe the EU. After all, it exposes some of the less savoury aspects of the bloc, like the influence of lobbyists and the power struggles between different countries and interest groups.

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In a powerful monologue, Ingeborg expresses resentment towards the French for being on their high horse, the Germans for lecturing, the British for their misguided Brexit support, the citizens who vote for populists and the populists who criticise the EU but also love being paid for their roles as MEPs. But most of all, she hates herself for being an unelected bureaucrat.

However, if anything, Parlement has made me appreciate the EU even more.

For one thing, it is refreshing to see a show that acknowledges the complexities of the EU rather than simplifying it into a black-and-white narrative. And despite all the political manoeuvring and posturing, there’s a sense that the characters genuinely care about making the EU work.

Even Ingeborg, the character who is most cynical about the EU, is motivated by a desire to make Europe better, even if she sometimes goes about it in a rather ruthless way.

But more than that, Parlement shows that the EU is somewhere we can come together and find ways to work together, despite the different languages, barriers, cultures and interests that might divide us.

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It is about the power of cooperation, understanding and compromise in solving complex issues. It’s a place where we can peacefully debate and find common ground, rather than resorting to violence or aggression.

And in a world that often feels increasingly polarised, that’s something to be celebrated.

Furthermore, Parlement has some valuable lessons to offer. The show highlights the importance of transparency and the need for EU lawmakers to be held accountable for their actions.

One great character in the show who personifies this need is Cornelius Jaeger, the Belgian Flemish Green MEP who is probably the only one shown to do his job properly.

He cares about what he does, sticks to his guns, works in full transparency, and tells lobbyists who want to send him lists of amendments to “stick to your lobbying, I’ll take care of the law-making”.

So for Europe Day this year, I celebrated by watching Parlement again.

It’s a reminder that despite its flaws, the EU is still worth fighting for. The show humanises it and makes it more relatable. We see the struggles and triumphs of the characters, and can empathise with their experiences.

This makes it easier for us to connect with the EU and recognize the commonalities we share with our European friends and neighbours.

Parlement is also a testament to the power of storytelling to bring complex issues to life and help us understand them in a new way.

It is easy to criticise something you don’t understand or don’t know much about, and the EU is often a target of such criticism. But by showcasing the inner workings of the EU institutions and the challenges we face, Parlement demystifies the bloc and makes it more accessible to the public.

The EU is far from perfect, and there are certainly legitimate criticisms to be made. However, it is crucial that we acknowledge the benefits and achievements of the bloc as well, and reaffirm our commitment to the values and principles that underpin the EU.

You can watch Parlement on YouTube here.