Coming back to the European Parliament #2

Ewa Krakowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with Professor Zbigniew Zaleski, Polish psychologist and Member of the European Parliament in years 2004- 2009.

Ewa Krakowska: Before the adventure in Brussels, you were successful scholar and lecturer at the Catholic University of Lublin (the job that you currently continue). Which occupation do you find more fulfilling?

Zbigniew Zaleski: Tough question. With the first one I feel stronger connection. I worked hard and I did all I could in this field. But it was pleasure, because I met many people posing questions. The essence of science is asking questions, those that are most basic and valid- they are still deep if we look at my profession, psychology. It interests me, I would not change my job. Throughout five years of working in European Parliament I slightly gave up my academic work, although I managed to write a book called: „Psychology of support for New Europe”.

Answering the question, what I value more I would say that science is deep, rich and also occupies our minds. Many generations add something to its development, especially in psychology. For many years it was my way and identity. I identify myself with work at the University, with students. It keeps me still so alive. I highly value this way of life.

It’s not bad to be politician. You became so called VIP, it’s really comfortable. This occupation is easier than being a scholar. You may fail. In the world of science you must confirm your talent and knowledge. Political world functions other way. But I remember the times when I took advantage of being Professor in European Parliament where there are many other professors. I got along with them. As the scholar I was asked to share my opinion on issues like: abortion, circumcision of girls or adoption by homosexual marriages. As we can see my academic formation was not abandoned at that time. Sometimes I could even gain something because of it.

Emil Wojtaluk: Do you observe the work of Polish representatives in the European Parliament Mr Professor? If yes, how you can assess it?

ZZ: If you are inside you live it. After the loss I have been replaced by Professor Kolarska-Bobińska. I do not know what duty she fulfilled there, I must just see it. When I will enter there, I will quickly learn what is the status quo and I will participate in this Parliament as before. For the moment I observe it from outside like every citizen through the lens of hits: “What will happen?”, “important voting, speech”. I am interested in speeches of people that I know, for example the President Shultz – is he still a tough guy. I noticed that the role of Nigel Farage – critic of the Union, has grown up. His presence is necessary, because he sharpens the feeling in the others. And because I was there, I feel the spirit of time, I know what values are important and who is with who. Recently I was delighted with the news how much money we will get from EU budget for our Polish affairs. It was a satisfaction, thanks to this support we can develop continually. For now, I cannot imagine ourselves not to be in the European Union, even though I know the Union is not easy. It is good that we are there and we have our say.

EK: Are you going to continue the work of Professor Lena Kolarska-Bobińska or to propose your own initiatives?

ZZ: I am going to find out what she has done in our region. Good practices I will eagerly continue. For me, as a scholar, especially appealing is activity connected with youth. It’s not my desire to overwhelm them with EU, but just showing how to exploit all the possibilities they have in offer from the institution. I want to promote communication, direct contacts, languages. Previously I organised the project „Englishman in the family”. Somebody from Great Britain was going to Poland and was living with the family, so the kids could pick up some language skills. Then such a person was like Polish ambassador in homeland. So I guess I will think of the activities I like, in which I have the experience and some successes.

Coming back to the European Parliament #1

Ewa Krakowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with Professor Zbigniew Zaleski, Polish psychologist and Member of the European Parliament in years 2004- 2009.

Emil Wojtaluk: According to the latest news we know that you will replace Mrs Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, MEP from this region. Is it confirmed fact?

Zbigniew Zaleski: There are some formal procedures connected with this. Either Mrs Kolarska-Bobińska will renounce her mandate or The European Parliament will make such decision. Then it goes to the Electoral Commission that confirms who is next from the last election results. Afterwards it goes through the Marshal of the Sejm. The procedure will last some time, approximately one month. Probably it can start to function from January. It may happen, that the candidate will reject the proposition, I agreed on this stage.

Ewa Krakowska: The situation is rather unexpected. Did you think about such coming back?

ZZ: I didn’t have that attitude. Five years of mandate is not long time. We could expect that Mrs Kolarska-Bobińska will finish normally her tenure.

And in time I became lukewarm towards the institution that once I had very strong connection. The emotions are less intense. Now I know how things work there. For somebody who is there for the first time it must be a significant experience. This time I will find my place in European Parliament quickly, because I know to which party I will join.

EW: There are several months left till the next European Parliament election, have you ever contemplated to be a candidate Mr Professor?

ZZ: No, I did not have such thoughts especially. I was there already, I was happy to function inside this body for a five years, to get to know Europe and the possibilities of the European Union. According to my own assessment I was working intensively. But now it does not depends only on me but on Party chiefs, because they are decision-makers, they are deciding who will be put up to run for election, who deserves it. I do not have expectations to bet on me, not particularly. The future will show.

EW: You have been chosen the MEP during the first election to the European Parliament conducted in Poland – new Member State of the EU at that time. What you remember the best from that experience?

ZZ: It was essential for me that we are in the Union and we are entering as the Members of the European Parliament. There were different MEP’s in the first “toss”. From that time some attitudes has changed, healthy Euro-criticism appears.

The first thing that I remember concerns languages, that people did not speak any foreign language but they claimed that they do. They stayed only in their groups. It was sad for me. Maybe they could create something new if they could communicate with the others. The situation was that nobody knew them, let alone they did not know anyone. If I could decide on appointing such person for the office, I would do a test, to assess if a particular person communicates in any foreign language. It is very important.

The next issue has historical character, for I read Norman Davies’ book White Eagle, Red Star about Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920. In 2005 fell the anniversary of Katyń massacre, being the fresh MEP I tried along with deputy Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski from PIS to commemorate that fact by the minute of silence during the session. We arranged copies of the letter containing death sentence for Polish officers – signed by Stalin by his famous blue pencil. To my surprise, the President Josep Borrell decided that there will be no commemorating. This decision came to me earlier. I regarded this as a fiasco. However people made a fuss of it – in a positive sense that journalists from France and Germany started to question me about this. I explained that to them and many articles were published. It became quite famous case in Europe, in some circles. I cared about it so that the other people, elites in the West could find out about this.

The other experience is connected with South America. I have been frequently asked to fly on a missions, the electoral mission for example. Maybe because I did not need any translator. Once on such visit, “I did cost” almost 10 million. In Bogota, during the break of working as an observer I went for a walk, to talk with the local people. It turned out later on that in existing conditions it was risky, it is very easy to kidnap anyone. It is how the people earns money there. One of our guards terrified after that event, followed me around until I went on a plane back to Europe. As I found out later, in the case of kidnapping I would cost 10 million dollars. Maybe I was ill-advised that I did not tell I am going out. The fact that I could jeopardize the European Parliament really moved me.   

(To be continued…)


What is the European Social Fund?

Emil Wojtaluk

European Social Fund (ESF) is European Union’s main instrument to invest in human capital – namely workers. It assists by funding initiatives to help workers improve their skills and prospects for job. ESF is mainly desired for those Member States who have the lowest GDP compared to the EU average.

What are the most important priorities?

* Boost adaptability of workers with new skills, and enterprises with new ways of working (training opportunities, active career management, modernizing the institutions etc.),

* Improving access to employment (training and qualifications, helping women after pregnancy to get back to work by updating their skills),

* Helping people from disadvantaged groups to get jobs (minorities, immigrants, social excluded persons),

* Vocational training (improving the offer of companies and universities to be best suitable for individuals and to give more job prospects).

To whom it is addressed?

To Beneficiaries which are wide variety of organizations as: public administrations, workers’ and employers’ organizations, NGO’s, charities and companies.

And to Participants who are individuals who take part in ESF project like: young job seekers getting work placements, people seeking advice how to set up their own business, and many other projects.

How it works?

The fundamental point of the functioning of European Social Fund is partnership between the European Commission and national and regional authorities. Other partners like NGO’s and workers’ organizations are also taken into account in the creation of ESF strategy and monitoring its implementation. The European Social Fund strategy and budget are negotiated and decided by EU governments, European Parliament and The Commission.

There are two main principles constituting ESF. First is co-financing for private and public entities that vary from 50% to 85%, and in exceptional cases even 95% of the total project cost. The level of co-financing also depends on current economic situation of a particular region. And the second principle is shared management which covers preparation of ESF guidelines after consultations with stakeholders, and negotiating 7-year Operational Programmes between national authorities and The Commission.

Important numbers

* Every year EU gives over 10 billion € to the European Social Fund

* European Union will provide over 76 billion € in funding to the ESF for the period 2007 -2013 and 84 billion € for the years 2014-2020!

* Every year ESF supports and train more than 10 million people!

ESF – close to us

Summing up, I would like to stress our domestic example of using ESF in Lublin. John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin is realizing “Najlepsze Praktyki” project co-funded from the fund, which is aimed at: sending doctoral students for internships, English language course for research and teaching staff of the University, organizing lectures of visiting professors and finally – modern studies programmes with additional professional courses that are completely free of charge. Being a student of European Studies I was attending Public Speaking class co-funded exactly from ESF. There are also many other free courses to choose like: fundraising for international projects, project management, protocol and etiquette and much more. That is an example of improving of education that is covered by the main priorities of the European Social Fund.

We can find European Funds at almost every step, we just got used to them. Try to imagine – what if there would be no EU funds? I will leave our readers with that question.

EUROpens Blog is back!

After long break our blog opens a new editorial season. Now we continue what was created by the former team.

Let us introduce to you- our editorial board consists of:

Adrianna Brzozowska, Anita Weprzędz, Ewa Krakowska, Ivonna Orlova, Emil Wojtaluk, Kamil Augustyniak, Karol Panas.

The aim of our blog is to broaden your knowledge about the European Union, inform you about important issues and events within the EU and Europe as such. We hope EUROpens Blog will become a vital source of information for you!

With regards,

Editorial Board