“The world does not end only at what we see”: an interview with Prof. Bogusław Marek

Maria Moroniak
Emil Wojtaluk

Winters in Humla (Nepal) tend to be very cold (© Prof. Bogusław Marek)

In our unusual interview we would like to introduce our readers and followers to a very extraordinary person – Professor Bogusław Marek, OBE. Professor Marek is the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled Students, the founder of Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials for the Blind and the inventor of  ‘English for the blind’ program.

For Professor his work of more than twenty years is both a mission and a passion. He has invented numerous educational toys which are used by him on daily basis as tools to explain difficult concepts based on visual experience. In 2002 he was honored with The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen Elisabeth II for his devotion to his educational effort.

We hope the following interview is going to encourage you to get yourselves familiar with the Professor Marek’s activity and maybe even support his initiatives.

Emil Wojtaluk: You are the father of ‘English for the blind’ program and the founder of the Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials for the blind at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. Could you please outline the Center’s activity?

Real objects and models support computer based English language lessons with blind children at KUL (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Due to the fact that the blind are recognized as a group with so called special educational needs, our activity is all about helping them with functioning like they weren’t blind. For instance, when someone sighted needs a book – he goes to the library, borrows a book and reads it. This is impossible for a blind student unless there is a copy of the book in a Braille or digital format. The blind students remain disabled persons but we try to take their disability away. Sometimes, at meetings and conferences, I surprise people saying that here at the University our policy is not to have any disabled students. I can always hear a murmur of outrage: “how come, at KUL”? All I mean is every disabled person is welcome here, but we do our best to make sure that they can function as regular students. If a student in a wheelchair is able to use a lift to get to the classroom – he is not a disabled student anymore. This also applies to blind students – if they have their books and tests adapted for them, they are no longer disabled students. This is what the Center’s activity is about and I have to say we have a lot of work. As of today, there are 15 blind students enrolled at the University. Let’s say each of them attends 8 classes and there are 10 books needed to be read to prepare for them – it makes 80 books for one person. This is a tremendous amount of work. Last year our Center transformed 70K pages of regular text into Braille or digital format. Plus texts written in Braille take approximately 3 – 4 times more space than the regular font. Our students are equipped with personal digital appliances, Braille notebooks with a small screen. Our specialty is also converting graphics: graphs, diagrams, charts or maps. We are ready to prepare boards and plans in a tactile version.

Maria Moroniak: Do you remember the specific moment in the past when the project was born? Was there any milestone, which you remember as a propulsion of the initiative? Or was it all about arduous, day-by-day work?

Bethany Centre for blind children in Meghalaya, India (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: I think I need to mention a couple of milestones here. First of all – you two are probably too young to understand that – a middle-age crisis. When you are a guy in your forties, you have made your PhD and your habilitation, thoughts like “can I achieve anything more at this university?” cross your mind. I have always been afraid of a vision that I could end up like someone I met years ago during my studies at the University of Warsaw. The gentleman I am talking about was apparently tired with his life and his students and all he was doing was reading out loud boring lectures from yellowed pages of his notes. I didn’t want this kind of academic death to happen to me. I needed a shot in the arm. I wasn’t frustrated yet. I just could have felt I needed more. Then it happened that I was staying in London with my students and once noticed a poster of a charity working for the blind. There was a girl holding a model of Tower Bridge in her hands and the sentence “Amy will never see the sights of London” written below. It made me think: “hold on… if Amy has been blind since she was born, she’s got to have very good hearing, memory and concentration. And these skills are extremely useful in interpreting or teaching languages. The only thing Amy may be missing is a foreign language”. And then I thought I could offer English to the blind kids in Poland. So said, so done. I visited this foundation the same day and two weeks later I was a tutor on a camp for blind kids. This was supposed to let me know if I could handle this kind of work.After coming back to Poland I went to Laski (a special school for blind children). I would teach English to kids and kids would teach me about being a blind person. After two years of working in Laski I got a scholarship and went to England to do a specialist course in visual impairment. It was before Poland’s accession to the European Union but they already had some preparatory programs for the members-to-be and I was one of the first beneficiaries of the “Tempus” program, which let me complete my visual impairment studies at the University College London. After coming back to Poland I found out that my new British qualifications were not valid in Poland but it didn’t put me off. I started a “pirate” unit here at KUL, thanks to a green light from the authorities of the University. And this was when, in 1995 the Unit of Typhlodidactics of English was established which later included Alternative Comuniation. We started with training teachers, later on first blind students appeared, so did the need of preparing materials for them. In the beginning it was more like outwork – we only had a tiny Braille printer. And then we got invited to participate in a program “Per linguas mundi ad laborem” co-organized by the University of Warsaw and the Maria Grzegorzewska University (Academy of Special Needs Education). The project was planned on a large scale, including creating centers for adaptation of materials at KUL and the University of Warsaw (UW). We split the roles up – Warsaw focused on converting regular text into Braille format and we, due to my personal experience, focused on graphics, obtaining new, very expensive devices for creating high-class, long lasting tactile graphics. That project was my second milestone.

Group photo on the last day of a tactile graphics workshop in Apia, Samoa (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

I think I need to mention the third one too. It happened during my studies in England, which were supposed to last two years, though I completed them within one year since I didn’t have other responsibilities. I was asked to give a speech during the inauguration of the academic year. Back in that time KUL was known as the only independent university from Western Berlin to Tokyo, so every embassy sent a high-ranking representative, even ambassadors themselves, in a gesture of support. I was given an opportunity to speak in front of such a noble audience, so I had been working on my twenty-minute speech for three months. I was honored with applause, but the most glamorizing part was talking to all these guests in person. There was a line of ambassadors asking me how they could support my initiative. Thanks to that morning we got equipment sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and I could go on a very important course of tactile graphics organized in Australia and funded by the British Embassy. Thankfully I was quick enough to react by saying “Your Excellency, the course is useless unless I have funds to buy the equipment for producing tactile graphics” – so we got money to buy that too. When it comes to embassies, there was also another interesting situation. Once I was parking my Polish car in a London street and saw two couples with their children walking by. When they saw the number plates they approached me and started a conversation, talking about my work with blind kids. Soon they turned out to be members of the Polish Embassy willing to donate some spare money to charity. The next day I visited the Consulate in London and left it with a cheque for 26K pounds. The money was spent on equipment which was soon sent from England to our Center in Poland. There was also the fourth milestone – thanks to a project “Równy Start” – “Equal Chance” we got enough money to buy more devices for students with various disabilities.

Emil Wojtaluk: You have traveled a lot to work in so many different places. Have you noticed any differences in conceptions of helping the blind? Do you think there is an awareness gap between Poland and other countries?

Reasearchers from India Institute of Technology are getting acquainted with new technologies for producing tactile graphics (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: In the beginning of the nineties English parliament enacted very significant regulations – a kind of a manual for every institution interested in helping the blind. Thanks to these guidelines everyone knows what one is supposed to be doing – for example a school headmaster knows what his duties are and what source of funding he can use. They leave no space for latitude of interpretation, there are no situations when people keep saying that would be good to do this or that, but no one knows where and how to start and in the end no one feel responsible. I would say that their system works better. But there are inequalities too. Some parents of blind children decide to sell their house and move to another, richer county, where they can get better support from the government.  When it comes to attitude of a society to a blind person, I have never experienced hostility, even in such exotic countries as Nepal or India where being blind is often associated with being punished for sins. I have also seen exaggeration – in the United Arab Emirates local kids get top world-class support, for instance, once I met a boy who didn’t even know how to use his electronic devices. I suppose that was because his father would buy him every latest appliance available on the market so his son never took time to get familiar with using it in a proper way. So in fact the boy had all this equipment stored without the knowledge of how to use it. On the other hand, the vast majority of blind kids living in the UAE are the kids of immigrants working there and they receive no support from the government, they can only count on international organizations.

Maria Moroniak: Your program dedicated for the blind makes entering the job market much easier for them. Do you know what happens to your students after they graduate, do you often hear from them?

Teachers from the North of India are learning about innovative educational resources for blind learners (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: We don’t run any records, but maybe we should. We keep in touch mostly because we are on friendly terms. Almost every graduate gets a job after completing the studies – sometimes they teach English or earn some extra money offering private lessons. Due to their strong interest in electronics, they also work as other blind people’s consultants helping them to learn how to work with devices for the blind. There is an interpreter. And there is also a person who undertook English studies to learn the language so she can start her dream studies – Psychology. She became a clinical psychologist and even has been awarded by the British National Health Service for her work. One of our students, owner of a deep, warm voice unfortunately doesn’t work for any radio station, but works successfully at the telephone customer service. Professional path chosen by our students depends on their determination. There are also passive people for whom enrolling on a course is enough or people who choose to study just to be entitled to get a certain type of help.

Emil Wojtaluk: I’d like to refer to the previous question. As far as you are concerned, how important on the labor market for the blind is their education? How many of them work in their educated profession?

Kick-sled – winter sport accessible to both sighted and blind persons (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Unfortunately, it does not look good. According to the data presented by the Polish Association of the Blind, only 10 – 15 % of the blind work and the situation isn’t any better in other countries. We should encourage employers to employ the blind showing them how they can benefit. Unfortunately there are misuses because of concessions the blind bring to companies, so some entrepreneur give a blind person a job just to make him or her a ghost-worker with a benefit for the company. The blind’s ability to fit in the labor market isn’t just based on their education but also on their attitude and interpersonal skills. Let me give a fantastic example by quoting our current English Studies student. When one day at the class she noticed that someone didn’t want to learn how a tactile map works, she asked her friend: “How do you want to know how to reach your destinations then? Every time you ride a trolleybus  you are just going to count the shakes it gives you and then you’d know that you’re supposed to get off?!”. One day she came to our office asking if she could print something. It turned out she had made stickers to put on a windscreen warning drivers that if they keep parking their cars in wrong places, they will have their cars scratched by a blind person’s white canes. This girl is cheerful, always smiling, sociable. But there are also grumpy students for whom being a blind person seems to be an eternal excuse for anything. These people are going to have issues with finding a job no matter how educated they are. From the start they arose aversion or pity and that leads them nowhere.

Maria Moroniak: Has any of your students ever joined your initiative working along with you?

Professor Bogusław Marek: Of course! We had a wonderful PhD student who has temporarily moved to the US. She used to encourage and motivate our students, organize courses, theme meetings, trips, body language workshops. Each one of our graduates knows how to work with blind kids and if someone chooses to work with them he or she is definitely well prepared for that. Some of our students organize workshops in their communities.

Maria Moroniak: so your idea is being continued.

Professor Marek: If someone tries this kind of work once and it turns out well, one definitely gets hooked, there is no turning back. Once some lady teacher told me “Oh, I admire you, I am so soft at heart that I couldn’t be working with blind children.” I responded jokingly “My heart is a stone, so I can work with them with ease.”. It’s not about pity, you need a reasonable attitude. One needs to contain emotions.

This eight-year-old boy (looking four) turned out to be a very bright student (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Maria Moroniak: so is the job mentally overwhelming?

Professor Bogusław Marek: I would say this job is invigorating. It takes creativity to face the challenges and figure things out fast. I say challenges, not problems, because problems bring you down and challenges cheer you up. I constantly feel a need to create something new and I believe that’s the reason I am still in a good shape. It happens that I have to do the homework. One day a blind boy told me that that day he had learned a new English word: transparent. I was wondering how I could explain this word to him… Later on I was working on figuring it out at home. And the best moment was when next time we met he left the class and told his mom “Mom, I already know what this word means”.

Emil Wojtaluk: The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – the supreme honour available for a non-British. Could you tell us the story behind it?

Authors of the interview: Maria Moroniak (left) and Emil Wojtaluk (right) with Professor Bogusław Marek (© EUROpens BLOG).

Professor Bogusław Marek: First I have to mention again that KUL was very important institution on the world stage back in that time. A lot of embassy officers, even ambassadors, were sent here to learn Polish language. And there is a tradition that when an ambassador takes his position in a country he is sent to, he takes a trip around the country to explore it. One of them came to Lublin to recollect his Polish language course at our university which he had attended years before. He also visited our workshop and he liked it. After a while I got a call from some high officer who invited me for a lunch here, in Lublin. During the lunch with the Diplomatic Secretary of the British Embassy I was asked a lot of questions about our program “English for the Blind”: about its beginnings and about its future. And that was it. After a while I got another phone call from the British Embassy. That time I was asked “If the Queen wanted to honor you with a medal, would you accept it?”. I can remember that I was in a rush because I had to go to a lecture, so I responded playfully “How could I say no to Her Royal Highness?” I hung up thinking “Medal? What medal?”.

The Order of the British Empire received by Professor Marek (© EUROpens BLOG).

In a couple of weeks I received another message – that the Queen awarded me with the Order of the British Empire. I was asked to send in a list of guests I wanted to invite for the ceremony of decoration. I could choose between the British Embassy in Warsaw or Lublin City Hall, since there was a British Week scheduled then and all of the Embassy workers were going to come here anyway. I really wanted to invite my blind pupils – after all I was awarded thanks to them and, most of all, for them. The ceremony was held in Lublin City Hall. An officer of the army was holding my medal resting on a cushion. All of then-rectors of our University arrived, there were speeches, a bugle call, congratulations, a grandiose ceremony. I remember someone told me “You got an extremely important medal, use it wisely”. But I can also remember that there was hardly any information in the Polish media. Only a  line and a half in the local newspaper. I am not saying I felt sorry, but later on when David Beckham got the Order I could see a huge difference – everyone was talking and writing about that everywhere! I have O.B.E. written on my business card and people sometimes ask me which Christian monastery’s acronym is this? In Anglo-Saxon countries such as England, New Zealand, Australia or Canada this status is really recognizable. This doesn’t mean they prepare a red carpet every time I arrive, although I have to admit it helped me a lot when it comes to contacts with western organizations. And also every year the British Embassy invites me for the Queen’s birthday party.

Maria Moroniak: What are the Center’s plans for future? Are you going to take up any major initiatives worth exposing?

Lessons a HEAD Nepal are organized in a multi-purpose room (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Of course, some huge ones! I have already mentioned the project “Równy start” within which we are going to arrange a Center for Motivating the Disabled – I called it “KUL CAN”. Our team will be wearing T-shirts with the slogan “KUL CAN = You Can!” printed on them. We want to expand our activity and serve other universities and schools with our skills and well-equipped workshop, which is the best equipped one in Poland, even better that the one at the Maria Grzegorzewska (University Academy of Special Needs Education) in Warsaw . We also have signed a contract with Fund for the Blind of Laski to support their charges in starting studies, not only at KUL, but wherever they wish. We want to help them out with enrolling at their dream studies. I hope one day we could create a typhlodidactics unit at the University. We already have surdopedagogy (pedagogy of the deaf).

Maria Moroniak: You have wide experience in working with the blind, how do you think, what can we learn from the blind?

Humla is known as a hidden gem of Nepal (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Prof. Bogusław Marek: I would say they teach us that the world does not end only at what we see. There are a lot of things hidden from our sight. We take shortcuts too often. We take a gaze at something and assume that we already know everything about the case. We firmly rely on our sight and that makes us unable to notice how this world manifests itself in so complex way. Let me give you an example of how a blind person describes rain. Once I met a man who told me that he feels very lonely when the weather is fine. He compared himself to a man drawn in the middle of a plain sheet of paper. And when it starts to rain, the sheet starts to fill up with other objects, because he can finally hear the objects he is surrounded by thanks to raindrops pattering on surface. He can hear a roof, a path, a dog leap stairway, the bushes – notice the tree-dimensionality of the world. I think that a contact with the blind sensitizes us to the world, makes us feel we can live more, absorb impressions we are surrounded by using other senses, not only our sight. The world does not end at what we can see.

If you think you can offer any kind of support to Professor Marek’s initiative, feel free to contact with the Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials:

centrum.niewidomi[at]kul.pl

phone numbers:

+48 81 445 4331 – the Center’s workshop

+48 81 445 4332 – the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled Students, Professor Bogusław Marek

Reklamy

„The future of the EU in the face of Brexit, migration crisis and the hostile policy of Russia” presentation by Jerzy Buzek

Barbara Zak

On the 20th of March 2017, the conference entitled „Students’ Business Forum” was held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin with one of the most remarkable figures of both Polish and European political sphere : Jerzy Buzek, former Polish Prime Minister and former President of the European Parliament, addressed the audience about issues that may endanger the future of the European Union (EU) : Brexit, the migration crisis and the aggressive foreign policy of Russia.

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The current MEP started his speech by briefly reminding us the history of the EU from the European Coal and Steel Community. He then highlighted the present crises the EU is facing and struggling to overcome. In his opinion, the EU is taking a new direction for its future, which does not suppose „european integration”. People have a bigger faith in the national identity rather than the European identity, which illustrates a new psychological situation of the voters that may have negative effects on the future of the organisation. He stressed the fact that our European civilization is gradually weakening. Concerning the three crises, he declared that for Brexit, there will be no win-win results – both parties will suffer from this divorce – and there is a need to somehow strengthen the relations between the USA and the EU, which is a signifcant partner if talking about NATO, as the UK was an important contributor to the good maintaining of these relations. As for the migrant crisis, he recalled Pope Francis’ speech about our role in welcoming migrants and refugees, underlining the Christian roots of the EU. He also reminded that Russia’s foreign policy is becoming more and more aggressive, but that is because of its ruler rather than its society. Jerzy Buzek then described some possible scenarii regarding the future of the EU : the first one would be not to change anything about it, which is dangerous. Another scenario would be a Europe of different velocity : States are not walking together towards the same goal but individually – they choose what policies they want. The last scenario is the federation of the EU but it is a project for the future decades. The former President of the European Parliament finished his speech by quoting „unity in diversity”, a watchword that is currently at risk.

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Prof. Jerzy Buzek (born in Śmiłowice (actual Czech Republic) on the 3rd of July 1940) is an eminent Polish politician and fervent pro-EU European deputy. His main position in the Polish political sphere was Prime Minister of Poland (Prezes Rady Ministrów) from 1997 to 2001, under the presidency of Aleksander Kwaśniewski. He was the leader of the political party Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność) which was dissolved in 2004. Nowadays he is a member of the Civic Platform party (Platforma Obywatelska). At the European level, he is a member of the European Parliament since 2004, affiliated to the European People’s Party. He was elected President of the European Parliament for the period 2009-2012. He is to this day the only President of the European Parliament from the Eastern Bloc of the EU. He is currently the chair of the European Parliament Industry, Research and Energy Committee since 2014, following his election. He is also a professor of technical science since 1997.

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Barbara Zak and Dorota Kowalska with Prof. Jerzy Buzek

Follow Jerzy Buzek on Facebook and Twitter

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Sources :

http://www.buzek.pl/node/5564

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/28269/JERZY_BUZEK_home.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/jul/14/european-parliament-elects-president

Conscription in the European Union

Barbara Zak

The mandatory military service may seem to be outdated since the majority of the Member States of the European Union (EU) base their military capacity on professional soldiers and volunteers, rather than conscripts. Nevertheless, with regards to the actual sensation of instability of security in Europe, it appears that having a competent army able to defend the nation may play a huge role at the international level in the long run.

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Soldiers from Sweden’s Skaraborg regiment patrol during a military manoeuvre in Visby, on the island of Gotland. Photograph: Soren Andersson/EPA

At the beginning of March 2017, the Swedish government has decided to re-activate conscription from January 1st 2018, a decision that has been backed by the country’s MPs (70% of the Parliament). This decision concerns 4,000 young men and women (because of gender neutrality) out of 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will serve for 12 months. Obviously, the voluntary recruitment to the Armed Forces is still maintained. The reason for this change given on the website of the Swedish government is that“the security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness”. We can understand that this choice has been made following the security change in the Baltic region and the increased military activity by Russia (war in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea). We should note that conscription system was abolished in Sweden in 2010.

As the EU is defined as an economic free-trade area with a single market (that is to say that it is primarily an economic union), it does not have any EU army. Member States have their own army which serves in case of an attack against the nation. The national armies can be implied in national or international conflicts following the decision of the government or parliament. Laws concerning military conscription are then regulated by the national law-making bodies. Military service is mandatory in Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece and Lithuania. In the majority of cases, it is compulsory for all male adult citizens, while women have the choice of enrolling into the military service. They can choose between military or civilian service. Germany considered in 2016 to have conscription returned in case of national emergency, as provided by the constitution. Interesting fact, for instance, in 2013, Austria held a referendum which result was that Austrians, with around 60% of the voters, were in favour of retaining compulsory military service.

civilian and military.

Copyright : Matt Hinsa || Creative Commons

Austria being an original case, mandatory military service still suffers from a social lack of support. The youth clearly declares their preference of starting their careers and families, rather than spending months as a conscript. There is a risk of the acceleration of youth emigration, as it was the case in Lithuania when it reintroduce conscription. Some opinions state that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could be considered as the best solution for the defence of European countries since its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. However, the majority of the states in which military service is mandatory are not part of NATO : Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden. As a result, increasing the army troops by changing the voluntary recruitment into a mandatory military service does not seem an irrational decision.

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Sources :

http://www.government.se/articles/2017/03/re-activation-of-enrolment-and-the-conscription/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/28/sweden-bring-back-conscription-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/02/sweden-reintroduce-conscription-amid-rising-baltic-tensions

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39140100

http://4liberty.eu/mandatory-military-service-a-solution-for-national-defence-in-eu-member-states/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/24/lithuania-reinstate-compulsory-military-service

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/lithuania-reintroduces-compulsory-military-service-to-counter-russian-threat-53376

http://www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_publishes_2016_conscription_lists/

http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/defence/conscription-boosted-emigration-lithuanian-pm-says.d?id=70086058

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/23/germany-considers-plan-to-bring-back-conscription/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21110431

http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/pdfs/CSS-Analysen-75-FR.pdf

http://www.leparisien.fr/espace-premium/actu/interactif-service-militaire-qui-fait-quoi-en-europe-15-02-2016-5547853.php

Towards a research career? An interview with Dr Tatiana Coutto

Barbara Zak

Dr Tatiana Coutto is an active researcher who has regularly published articles and participated in the writing of books. Her current research activities deal with the EU institutions and policy-making processes as well as public diplomacy of middle powers. She is also a teaching fellow at the University of Warwick  (Department of Economics) and at the Catholic University of Lille (Faculté Libre de Droit). For more information about Dr Tatiana Coutto,  click on the link here.

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Dr Tatiana Coutto

1 – Could you tell us about the studies, interesting internships, volunteer work you have done? At that time, did you already know about the career you wanted to pursue?

I had quite an interdisciplinary background, maybe because I was interested by many different things. I began my studies in Brazil (where I am originally from): I did Biology/Genetics during my undergraduate studies, and then I took a Business Management major. I was clearly interested by research work, but was not very sure about what exactly I wanted to do. I also thought of passing an exam to become a diplomat, but I was admitted to a Masters in International Relations in Rio de Janeiro. Then I realized I wanted to keep studying and learning for my whole life. I remember when the Berlin wall came down, when Maastricht was signed and when the Eurotunnel was opened. These events had a strong influence on me – I was really fascinated by the idea of bringing European states together and building solid peace.

My first internship was as a research assistant in a Biochemistry Laboratory, but I did not enjoy it very much. I also worked with Publicity Marketing when I was studying Business Management. During my PhD I worked as a stagiaire to the Brazilian Mission to the EU, in Brussels, and worked as a voluntary translator for a website about undocumented workers, PICUM.org.

 

2 – The profession of researcher may not be very clear to everyone. Could you explain what it consists in? How do you prepare to a research career after completing your PhD?

I think a research career starts well before you finish your PhD. It starts with curiosity to know more about things, and a pleasure to learn new things, too. A research career involves research work (field work, interviews, cleaning databases, writing articles, presenting them at conferences, submitting it to journals, applying for fund), teaching (+ preparing courses, office hours, marking and invigilating exams – the last two are not very exciting, I must say). Research funds are becoming more scarce, and the career is now very competitive. My advice is to try to work as an assistant since your undergraduate studies, and to get experience from internships as well. During your PhD do engage in teaching activities, and try to publish at least one good article. Again, working as an RA (research assistant) is an excellent option – you get research experience, and it will help you with contacts and reference letters in the future. If possible, spend one semester in another country to gain international experience. Do not wait to finish your PhD to start academic career – it does not work this way. Oh yes, make sure you finish your PhD with at least a basic knowledge of statistics (even Law scholars need that!).

 

3 – You regularly publish articles and participate in the writing of books. Do you have any favourite piece of work and/or a subject of preference?

I am now working on a project about British media and public attitudes towards the EU. The project is financed by the European Social Research Council (ESRC). I do not have articles on the topic yet, but we have a final conference coming up on 19 January in London. If you can make it to London feel free to register at ukandeu.ac.uk („events” page). Please spread the word!

So far most of my published articles are about Brazilian foreign and nuclear policy (published in the International History Review), biological weapons (in the Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals) and about the EU as an environmental actor. I published varied articles because I was involved in different projects – most scholars focus on one or two research domains only.

4 – How is the profession of researcher related to the profession of teacher?

They could not be more interrelated. It is important that teachers engage in research so they can remain updated about recent developments in their field (this is valid for any area of knowledge). I have the chance (whenever possible) to talk about my projects to my students, so the lecture becomes more engaging. Sometimes I also discuss articles I am working on with the students, so I can get a fresh view on my work. There is a tendency to undervalue teaching activities, but I think this is a mistake. Teaching is extremely important, even though it is a very tiring activity (of course you don’t realize that when you are a student – I didn’t use to!). You also have the opportunity to advise dissertations and thesis, which lies between teaching and research. I personally enjoy teaching a lot, but this is not a general rule in academia.

 

5 – What would you advise to students who aspire to pursue an academic career?

Do more than what the teachers and the programme require. Focus (easier said than done), get publications out before you finish the PhD. Everybody will face some difficult moment at a certain point of the career – you are not the only one. Limit the time you spend on facebook, snapchat, WhatsApp (they can be very disruptive). Stay informed (don’t rely only on newsfeed), and do not be afraid of feedback – feedback may not always be nice to hear, but your work improves a great deal.

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EU Careers Student Ambassador

Agnieszka Szeszel

logo-en

Photo: EPSO

EU Careers Students Ambassadors from 28 Member States at the training in Brussels (Photo: EPSO).

Do you want to face many challenges in a dynamic environment and make a difference for Europe? The European Union institutions are waiting for people who are ready to start their career at the international level!

For the academic year 2016/2017 I was chosen to represent the European Personnel Selection Office in Lublin as an European Union Careers Student Ambassador in the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.

During the first few months of carrying this office, I accomplished quite a bit in spreading the knowledge of applying for the posts and traineeships in the EU. I had an amazing opportunity to speak with people of different ages, interests, fields of education and countries.

 

20161130_124151

Taking part in the career fairs

What do I do as an Ambassador? To begin with, I made a presentation for my fellow students on one of the classes at my University, I organized a meeting with the Career Bureau of the other university in Lublin – UMCS, I participated in the career fairs at the Catholic University of Lublin organized by their Career Bureau and also took a part in a special meeting for the people who wanted to know more about working in the EU. But above all and most importantly I answered many questions of people who met with me directly or contacted me by e-mail, about the path that needs to be taken to start working in the European Union institutions.

But it is just the beginning. I have many ideas and plans for the future, so if you are interested in gaining more knowledge about posts and traineeships in the EU contact me and be welcomed at the next EU Careers meetings in Lublin.

Presenting how to apply for a job in the EU

Presenting how to apply for a job in the EU

Read more about student ambassador programme here:

http://europa.eu/epso/ambassadors/students/index_en.htm

Visit EPSO web page to find more about your opportunities of working in the EU:
http://europa.eu/epso/index_en.htm

Contact me for the further information or scheduling a meeting with me:
eucareers.kul@gmail.com

Like our EU Careers Lublin facebook page and be always informed of what’s happening 🙂
https://www.facebook.com/EU-Careers-Lublin-166508530355346/

 

Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 2)

Barbara Zak

Brussels’ response : you can’t have your cake and eat it too

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain's exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Following the announcement of the results of the referendum on the membership of the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Union (EU), it was understood that the EU respected the change of heart of the majority of the UK citizens. EU leaders do not want to go back in time but agree on the UK leaving the EU as soon as possible. Brussels is simply waiting for the formal notification of the UK to trigger the article 50 of the TEU. Even Donald Tusk (the President of the European Council) told Theresa May “the ball is in your court”. However the EU refuses to negotiate with the UK until the government has triggered the article. The reason may be the fear of contagion of a “Brexit” in other EU member states – Brussels is afraid of the ripple effect. With the rise of nationalism and populism, we can expect from far-right ruling parties to hold a referendum about leaving the EU in their countries. Moreover, the current uncertainty around the economy of the UK can have repercussions on the EU’s trade. The decrease of investments in the UK can be contagious to the European continent. There is an economic and ideological cost to the delay of the withdrawal of the UK.

            The heads of the member states, without the head of state of the UK, met informally on the 16th of September 2016 in Slovakia in what is called the Bratislava summit. The aim of this meeting, which was already planned before the referendum, was to discuss the stability and security of the EU. The withdrawal of the UK was not on the agenda of this gathering. However, it was more a way to show the unity and thus the strength and solidarity of the EU. However, on the inside, the EU is at a crisis – it is only a matter of time before another member state reveals its intention to withdraw from the Union. For instance, a referendum on the EU relocation plan will be held in Hungary on the 2nd of October 2016, which goes against the EU refugee policies. This “EU Quotas Referendum” illustrates the fact that some members of the EU disagree with the policies of the EU – it may be the beginning of their rebellion. As a matter of fact, the heads of states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia recently met several times as the Visegrád Group in order to discuss the issues related to the EU. As a consequence, the EU cannot be too soft towards the UK in order not to incite other member states to do the same. The argument of the economy is the strongest: the single market can be open to the UK only if they accept the free movement of people. Leaving the EU does not mean abandoning its drawbacks while still benefiting from its advantages.

The conundrum of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar

            Even though the “leave” won over the “remain” in the EU referendum, anti-Brexiters still cannot recover from the results, in particular in the parts of the UK where the “remain” was overwhelming: Scotland (62%), Northern Ireland (55.8%) and Gibraltar (95.9%).

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (Photo: GETTY)

            Many Scots, right after the announcements of the results of the UK referendum, were asking for a second referendum on this topic. However May’s government declared that a second referendum will not be held. There are some possibilities about a second Scottish independence referendum though – but not before the article 50 of the TEU is triggered. Nevertheless, both Labour and Liberal Democratpoliticiansalongwiththe polls are against the will of the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to have a second independence referendum. The “Reverse-Greenland” concept may be the solution for Scotland as they wish to stay in the UK and in the EU. Parts of the UK can maintain Britain’s membership of the EU. This means that Scotland does not need to apply to access the EU. The Greenland solution refers to the Greenland treaty which entered into force in 1985, following the Greenlandic referendum of 1982: Greenland, at that time part of Denmark, could leave the EU while Denmark was still a member state of the EU. In the case of Scotland, it is the opposite situation. Scotland would have an associate membership of the Union, namely the access to the single market, EU citizenship and free movement of goods/people/workers/students. They will pay membership dues. In a nutshell, they would take the seat of the UK in Brussels.

The case of Northern Ireland is a bit different from Scotland. Leaving the EU would mean too big economic consequences for Northern Ireland in comparison with Britain. There is the fear of losing the agricultural subsidies that are actually much needed and in demand by farmers. In addition, the transaction costs for trading in the EU (that did not exist before) would be overwhelming for Northern Ireland. Instability would resume Northern Ireland’s situation. Another problem, that is geographical this time, would be the border with Ireland, which is a member state of the EU. Irish people are afraid to turn back in time to the Troubles period (conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century). Thus they aspire to keep the free movement and the customs union across the border – the trade between two states decreases the possibility of them being at war. However, everything is in the hands of May’s government and the EU’s willingness to be flexible during the future negotiations. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister stays confident – May should not negotiate a Brexit that simply suits English interests. Yet the best option for Northern Ireland would be the same as Scotland: the Reverse-Greenland solution, that is to say to remain in the UK and in the EU.

Gibraltar was one of the territories where the “remain” vote was strong: nearly 100%. The main reason is the economy: Gibraltar imports exclusively from the EU. The transaction costs for trading with the EU would be utterly crushing Gibraltar. The Reverse-Greenland solution could be effective, only if there was no hiccup – more precisely, a Spanish hitch. In fact, Spain has a sovereign claim over Gibraltar due to its history. If the UK leaves the EU, Spain could isolate Gibraltar from Europe by building a wall alongside the border. Crossing the wall would mean paying border fees. In the case of applying the Reverse-Greenland solution, Gibraltarians are afraid that Spain would not accept it and veto it. The Spanish Government could veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar. Indeed, Spain is fully entitled to do so: as soon as the UK activates the withdrawal process, the European Council must agree the broad terms of the withdrawal negotiation by unanimity. Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo is resolute and says Spain will not leave the case until it receives at least the joint control of Gibraltar. As a result, Gibraltarians call for a second referendum explaining that the “leave” option was not clear enough – yet it is well understood that it is probably their last hope to stay in the EU.

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Sources:

Brussels’ response

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/08/donald-tusk-theresa-may-article-50-brexit-negotiations-eu

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/25/uk-faces-brexit-crisis

https://theconversation.com/brexit-et-dependances-61830

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/bratislava-summit-donald-tusk-urges-eu-leaders-not-to-waste-brexit-crisis

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/15/bratislava-summit-what-is-on-eu-27s-agenda—and-what-is-not—a/

http://www.france24.com/fr/20160916-sommet-bratislava-ue-relancer-apres-brexit

Scotland

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/683056/Brexit-will-Scotland-leave-UK-Britain-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-break-up

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-scotland-nicola-sturgeon-eu-uk-theresa-may-scottish-veto-block-withdrawal-a7141231.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3805290/Sturgeon-call-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-autumn-2017.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/17/nicola-sturgeon-would-consider-2017-scottish-independence-referendum-brexit

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/706467/Nicola-Sturgeon-humiliated-Scots-second-independence-referendum-vote-Brexit-EU

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/28/the-guardian-view-on-a-second-scottish-referendum-sturgeon-has-no-choice-but-caution

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-08-13/uk-could-do-a-reverse-greenland-to-allow-scotland-to-remain-in-the-eu/

Northern Ireland

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/10/northern-ireland-leaders-set-out-brexit-demands-to-theresa-may

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/25/theresa-may-hard-border-fears-northern-ireland-visit-brexit

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/brexit-beginning-end-northern-ireland

http://www.lemonde.fr/referendum-sur-le-brexit/article/2016/07/27/l-irlande-casse-tete-de-l-apres-brexit-pour-theresa-may_4975155_4872498.html

Gibraltar

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/665033/EU-Referendum-2016-What-Brexit-Mean-for-Gibraltar-Rock-British-Territory-Spain

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/650355/Brexit-threat-Spain-will-control-Gibralter-soon-as-Britain-leaves-EU

http://chronicle.gi/2016/07/spain-could-veto-brexit-talks-margallo-says/

http://chronicle.gi/2016/03/britain-must-include-gibraltar-in-post-brexit-negotiations-report-says/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36618796

https://www.ft.com/content/bea8ecf4-452a-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1

Read more:

https://theconversation.com/the-eu-bratislava-summit-explained-65604

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/13/expel-hungary-from-eu-for-hostility-to-refugees-says-luxembourg

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-scotland-greenland-idUKKCN0ZJ0A1

Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 1)

Barbara Zak

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

On the 23rd of June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) held a referendum on its membership to the European Union (EU). The turnout was the highest ever in the UK : 72%. Incredible, yet not surprising as it deals with the future of the country. The citizens of the UK had to choose between staying in or leaving the EU. With 51,9% of the votes, the “leave” won, especially in England and Wales while the votes for the “remain” took over Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. However, many highlight the fact that the referendum is not legally binding – yet it is definitely socially binding. As it was not a poll but rather the decision of the people, politicians cannot put aside its results. In order to start the process of leaving the EU, the Member State shall invoke the article 50 of the Treaty on the EU on the withdrawal of any Member State. However, the new Prime Minister Theresa May (who succeeded to David Cameron (who was in favour of remaining in the EU) after his resignation) predicted the date of the withdrawal of the UK not to occur before 2019.

Economy, immigration and sovereignty : the main issues of the IN vs OUT campaign

            The dispute between the parties of the “remain” and “leave” were based on three principal arguments. Both parties saw positively and negatively the effects of the UK’s membership to the EU on the national economy, on the growth of immigration since its accession and on its sovereignty.

            While the pro-Brexit people depicted the EU as an institution sucking endlessly a huge amount of pounds that could directly go into the public services, anti-Brexit people were persuaded that the EU added to the UK’s prosperity. EU countries are still the biggest buyers of English goods – being a member state of the EU gives the UK’s companies access to over 500 million consumers in a tariff-free trade area. In a nutshell, it is easier and cheaper to sell to the EU market. As a consequence, if the UK leaves the EU, it leaves this golden market. However, it was quite unexpected to see that the British economy was doing fine a few weeks after the announcement of the victory of the “leave”: the fact that the pound lost 10% of its value was counterbalanced with the increase of the number of tourists, especially from outside Europe. Against all odds, it seems that the UK’s economy could still manage its survival without having a direct access to this Eldorado that is the European single market. But it shall be noted that in the years to come, the uncertainty of the status of the UK in the EU could frighten investors. In addition, the trade barriers between the UK and the EU are likely to lead to job losses – at least three million of jobs in the UK are linked with the trade with the EU. The anti-Brexiters also tried to convince the population that the cost of living is lower with the UK being part of the EU (e.g. flights, roaming charges, healthcare in other EU countries). Nevertheless, in order to compensate for this eventual loss, pro-Brexiters believe in the possibility of the UK having its own trade deals with the EU, following the example of Norway in the European Free Trade Association (yet Norway is said to be against its attempt to rejoin the EFTA since the UK, as a big country in terms of population thus of power, would shift the balance). Regarding trade deals with other major economies, the idea of establishing a free trade area within the Commonwealth is a project close to the hearts of the parties that advocated leaving the EU. The UK was unable to negotiate its own free trade agreement while being a member state of the EU.

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Concerning immigration, it was a piece of cake for pro-Brexiters: the best argument in order to incite the people to vote against the EU is to persuade them of its responsibility in the constant rise of the number of immigrants in the UK. It was a recurrent argument of Nigel Farage, the former leader of the eurosceptic UKIP (UK Independence Party).Yet the UK has been privileged among the Member States of the EU – it won exemption from several EU asylum rules. Moreover, the former Prime Minister David Cameron assured that the UK will not accept any quotas of refugees. Compared to other Members States of the EU, the UK does not directly suffer from the migration crisis. So far, only illegal immigration (coming especially from the Calais Jungle) can be considered as a problem – even so, Le Touquet treaty under which British border checks are carried out on French soil has been restated between France and the UK. The idea of completely controlling the borders can berelated to the sovereignty of a country. Another famous argument in favour of a Brexit that was long ago advocated by Eurosceptics is the loss of sovereignty. The implementation of the huge amount of EU regulations is seen by the population as a diktat from the EU, as well as a loss of money and time. For example, farmers blame the endless bureaucracy of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). The British wish to have more of its own laws. Being a member of the EU now means that it underminesits national sovereignty.

The arguments of those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU have not completely convinced the majority of the population. It appears that the increased opportunities given by the EU (for instance the right to live, work, study in another EU member state) are not the priorities anymore. Leaving the EU may jeopardise the national security as the UK will not have access to the European criminal database for instance. The UK will not be safer anymore without its membership to Europol. Nevertheless, these arguments were not sufficiently convincing in the eyes of the majority of the voters, unlike the arguments of pro-Brexiters. The pro-EU arguments are not popular anymore. Eventually, the ‚ultimate Eurosceptic fantasy’ became real.

 

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Sources :

http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36788782

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-vote-leaves-key-claims-about-brexit/?playlist=structure%3Anews

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-key-claims-of-the-remain-campaign/?playlist=structure:news

http://forwardkeys.com/revenue-management/article/brexit.html

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/06/25/20002-20160625ARTFIG00015-sept-consequences-economiques-a-retenir-sur-le-brexit.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/08/09/20002-20160809ARTFIG00027-le-brexit-booste-le-tourisme-au-royaume-uni.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/economie/le-scan-eco/decryptage/2016/08/22/29002-20160822ARTFIG00197-brexit-l-economie-britannique-dejoue-les-pronostics.php

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/uk-plays-down-calais-border-tensions-with-critical-ally-france

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2015/05/13/quotas-refugies-europe-solution-qui-fache-royaume-uni-peut-refuser_n_7266868.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3705524/Finally-EU-offers-deal-immigration-Plan-offer-Britain-seven-year-emergency-brake-UK-access-Europe-s-single-market.html

https://www.ft.com/content/3282746e-11d8-11e6-839f-2922947098f0

https://realtruth.org/articles/160815-001.html

 

Read more :

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/06/uk-immigration-minister-confirms-work-will-begin-on-big-new-wall-in-calais

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37387162

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/norway-may-block-uk-return-to-european-free-trade-association

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/18/theresa-may-to-tell-world-leaders-that-britain-has-a-right-to-pr/

A brief insight into Euromyths

Maria Moroniak

The European Union as a big, diverse community struggles with numerous stereotypes and myths. Have  you ever wondered if the case of straight bananas really matters? Or have you ever stopped to think if church bells ringing on Sunday break the law? Take a look at ten incredible myths about how the EU works:

Photo by Tomek Garczyński posted on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/wyb2011/5768734085/in/photolist-ogvw5A-gbpcsh-rep5XY-sAzAXv-sMMUrW-sVekii-6T1q5G-9MLgEv-9foCBS-nhx1Ah-91Gs4H-a29tRm-6bw2g1-9wbRy

Photo by Tomek Garczyński posted on Flickr

#10 Myth: Sweets and toys commercials are banned

Fact:  The ban of advertising products for under 12-s had already come into force in Sweden, that wanted to encourage the EU to extend it to the whole community during its presidency in 2001, but didn’t succeed.

#9 Myth: The EU silences Scottish bagpipers for their own good

Fact: The EU didn’t ban national Scottish musicians to play their instruments. However, special detailed regulations preventing harm caused by noise exposure exist, but were created by the UK, not the EU.

Scotsman (Photo by Christian Holmér, posted on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/crsan/5504029710/in/photolist-9onAgY-a7HCV3-aiV4ez-82zb5n-aiV24c-8Psm6a-poonk5-cautvu-brfh4L-6Uy8zX-9ouZw4-5j6uT-cbNSLo-amfaWe-4GEE1B-4hw91P-AbAnZ-6NTtqM-78aPXA-7VcBNT-5gBTCx-aBZkdQ-8dSmaA-5JPFqt-a8aAmS-njk9om-2Tp43-5F7fsT-6MH9H5-c7hTPs-4snYwG-8ruBXU-66gGFw-31ss3Q-6XRm78-pGj5w-6RxDj2-dmC75g-nimjr-6Lb1CJ-66gqDU-7DBpxL-a888qZ-9PgRF8-8x3Due-67LVTn-oRt9nt-8esdGD-aqSn8K-fsKCi4 )

Scotsman (Photo by Christian Holmér, posted on Flickr)

#8 Myth: Children are banned from blowing up balloons and using party whistles

Fact: The EU regulations make producers place a special notes on their products to warn parents against letting too young children use this kind of toys without parental advisory, trying to protect kids from swallowing small parts.

#7 Myth: The EU bans church bells ringing

Fact: Some eager vicar was concerned that people living nearby the chapel would mind the noise of church bells and sue him to the European Court of Human Rights. In fact church bells sound doesn’t break the European law.

#6 Myth: Shops cannot sell dozens or half-dozen boxes of eggs

Fact: In 2010 the EU brought new labelling rules saying that the product containers must have also weight of the product written on them, not only number of pieces inside. That means selling eggs in dozens is still allowed.

#5 Myth: Self-employed people’s houses must have fire doors

Fact: Numerous directives protecting workers in the EU don’t apply to self employed persons working from their homes.

#4 Myth: The EU hires aristocrats to make inquiries on wine labelling

Fact: In 1993 an Italian MEP wanted his idea to be used to create an official unit taking care about proper wine labelling. His idea has never been realized.

Wine selection (Photo by Greg Pye, on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregpye/3203516653/in/photolist-5T5RTK-qpjPLd-9V2bKU-bhkreF-qgH4JR-7CefQi-5AW8Tr-e9J1QW-5hBvae-q1fVFT-6irefx-cDMdZ5-q3GoHJ-dthhKD-8UFVHW-dbN7kZ-9yb2iM-cDMe7h-8tVWMy-aGZG3z-bc1Zy6-ccyFo3-bZe1wd-qDBfSN-erKgqN-9J6Ygj-7iFqtU-6PH9nT-arTPJJ-aqsshG-cETgNq-cc2FiU-bnWx7h-7P7tCk-7tW26R-3QFzJ2-aj2B8N-4pcA9Y-2kCCK7-9AwbHz-5FTf27-cTt9aw-9DJg8G-7gwT6b-7ZCeGG-bbbR3c-5nYjX6-9M54Fi-9J7fHQ-8XPuCL)

Wine selection (Photo by Greg Pye, on Flickr)

#3 Myth: The EU officials are not allowed to fly Ryanair

Fact: Ryanair company didn’t enable their customers to book tickets through industry booking systems. This is why all the officials willing to travel with Ryanair would have to book their tickets themselves, which is just less comfortable for them.

#2 Myth: All unwanted love cards received on Valentine’s day are sexual harassment

Fact: There is no regulation or directive defying that this way. Opinion and judgment should be based on common sense. However, the EU regulations on dignity of women and men at work do exist.

#1 Myth: Bananas being sold in the European shops ought to be straight

Fact: The EU indeed takes care about size and quality of imported products to make its international trade clearer. Let’s get this straight- bananas don’t have to be uncurved, their size and quality have to correspond with the EU standards.

I also encourage you to check out my sources and take a look at the whole list of euromyths  published by the European Comission here  or read the article on them.

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The Rule of Law recommendation addressed to Poland

Kamil Augustyniak

 

It’s been more than six months ever since the European Commission (hereinafter referred to EC) started a dialogue with Poland on its rule of law situation but still the situation seems to be unbalanced and stands out from the European standards. The EC found some gaps and concerns which provide a threat to EU fundamental values and this is why, on 27 July 2016, it issued a new recommendation to clarify the inadequacies and proposed plenty of possible approaches how to change it properly.

Source: paszyk.pl

Source: paszyk.pl

 

Background

The unbalanced situation appeared after change of power following 2015 parliamentary elections in Poland. When the society democratically decided to give power to a new leading party, the situation concerning the Constitutional Tribunal became not only Poland’s internal issue but it escalated problems on European level due to the fact that the Commission noticed that there is a systemic threat to the rule of law in this country. To be fully objective it is worth mentioning that both previously leading party (Civic Platform) and the one currently in authority (Law and Justice) went beyond its competences while appointing new judges to mentioned tribunal. The former party appointed three new judges due to vacancy and two extra judges in advance despite the fact that their cadency will not start immediately but in couple of months (after the elections). Since this party lost a support and, consequently, the elections, the latter party decided to appoint not two judges but five claiming that all previous nominations were unlawful. For that reason not only the composition of tribunal is unclear but also the way how it works… or not.

President of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, Andrzej Rzepliński (Photo: Polska Agencja Prasowa/Paweł Supernak)

President of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, Andrzej Rzepliński (Photo: Polska Agencja Prasowa/Paweł Supernak)

Proposal from the Commission

This is the second time the EC took steps to explain and improve the issue of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland. After the Commission adopted the opinion on this situation in June this year, the situation stayed rather unchanged. This time the executive body of the EU prepared a recommendation in which clearly states its proposals. First of all to implement the judgments of 3 and 9 December 2015 which confirm the legal status of appointment of three judges by previous legislature and negate the choice of three out of five judges done by a new legislature. Secondly, to publish all Tribunal’s judgments automatically without depending on any decisions of the executive or legislative powers. Thirdly, to assure that any reforms on the law concerning the Tribunal will respect all its judgments and that the court can review the compatibility of law before it enters into force.

Status of recommendations

It is worth mentioning that recommendations are not legally binding. By these means the institutions can present its own scenario or propose proper direction to handle the situation. What is more, there are no legal obligation towards subjects to which the recommendation is addressed.

Full text of the Commission Recommendation of 27.07.2016 regarding the rule of law in Poland is available HERE.


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EU’s way of combating hate speech online

Emil Wojtaluk

 

Did you know that the EU took unprecedented steps towards combating hate speech in the Internet? Two months ago the European Commission together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (referred to as ‘IT companies”) agreed on a special code of conduct to fight with spreading hate speech.

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of the logo of the European Union in this picture illustration (Photo: DADO RUVIC / Reuters)

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of the logo of the European Union in this picture illustration (Photo: DADO RUVIC / Reuters)

While ensuring freedom of expression online the EU Commission and IT companies recognized that illegal hate speech negatively affects those fighting for freedom, tolerance and badly affect democratic discussion throughout the Internet. National legislation of the EU Member States plays a crucial role on preventing illegal practices. In that view Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia has to be fully implemented in national legal systems also in the online world – which also came as a conclusion of talks between the EU and IT companies. Actions guaranteeing that online agents and social media platforms will respond quickly on valid notifications of illegal hate speech in the Internet are equally important as complying with the law – that’s why a dialogue with IT companies was needed.

In response to all the challenges arising from the use of Internet, the European Commission together with the above mentioned IT companies have agreed on the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online. Signing the code, IT companies committed themselves on continuous development of their internal security measures and staff trainings to ensure an effective process of reviewing valid notifications – to make it possible to review such notifications in less than 24 hours, and if necessary, decide on deleting or blocking such content. IT companies will also focus on closer cooperation with NGOs, which will help in reporting of hate speech content – they also underline that creating of the code of conduct aims at sharing good practices with other companies.

Most relevant public commitments included in the code of conduct among other things are: 1) Creating transparent and effective tools of reviewing hate speech notifications by IT companies – they should also possess specific rules or guidelines clarifying prohibition of the promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct; 2) The IT companies commit themselves to review the majority of valid notifications in less than 24 hours; 3) Spreading of knowledge and conducting promotional campaigns on the types of illegal content by the IT companies; 4) Encouraging experts to bring their remarks and reporting content inciting to violence and hateful conduct on a wider scale; 5) Sharing good practices with other companies; 6) Cooperating with civil society organizations.

Full text of the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Speech Online is available HERE

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