Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #3

Barbara Zak

This article is the third round of a series of interviews with European Union (EU) interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in EU institutions. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time!

Isabella – from Italy/Chile – EU Delegation to the UN – traineeship in the Human Rights Department of the Delegation – in Geneva

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

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© Isabella Greppi Maturana

I was born in France, I am half-Italian, half-Chilean and I am currently studying Public International Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. I graduated from Maastricht University in 2017 with a Bachelor of European Studies. During my studies, I interned at the EU Desk Department of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Spain in Madrid and did an exchange semester at the University of Hong Kong. After my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to take a gap year and gain professional experience before starting my LLM. From September to March 2018, I did a six-month internship at the European Union Delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, where I worked in the Human Rights Department. From March to July 2018, I interned at the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) in Vienna, where I worked in the Agency’s Justice Section.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

I was working for the Human Rights department of the Delegation, specifically on Human Rights issues in Africa. I would, therefore, follow meetings that dealt with African countries, mainly on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Egypt. My main tasks involved the following: preparation of briefings and reports from Delegation’s meetings with EU Member States, third countries, UN organisations, Human Rights Council (HRC) mechanisms, and NGOs; research on human rights issues and country situations; analysis of States’ behaviour and dynamics within the Human Rights Council and preparation of draft EU statements for the HRC discussion as well as internal reports for transmission to Brussels.

The biggest task for interns is the preparation of the Human Rights Council and all the work that is left after that. From reporting the weekly or sometimes daily EU Coordination meetings, to conferences at the UN, life at the delegation can get very busy and you might find yourself running between the Delegation and the UN. You get to attend several events including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where UN Member States (MS) human rights situations are assessed, as well as the Committee Against Torture, the Forum on Minority Issues, amongst others. You also experience the dynamic life of the Delegation since the EU does most of the work in terms of reporting to the headquarters and organising daily EU coordination meetings. Coordinating 28 MS can be very hard, especially when MS have differing views on specific issues!

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© Isabella Greppi Maturana

It was particularly interesting to work at the EU Delegation in Geneva since I had the chance to experience the complex realm of multilateral diplomacy between the EU and the UN. Moreover, Geneva has long been one of the world’s capitals of international law and the headquarters of international institutions dedicated to human rights, which therefore offers you many opportunities.

For more information on internships at the EU Delegation in Geneva, you can have a look at the following video here.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

I applied to several EU delegations around the world, and mostly got unsuccessful answers due to the EU change of policies regarding internships. I finally got a successful answer from the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva, which had posted an announcement on their website for unpaid internships. I applied through their email and sent my CV as well as my motivation letter as requested. Their policy was rather strict in the sense that they only allowed internships for students studying, and thus residing in Geneva or for foreigners who were receiving financial support (scholarship from an institution, country etc.). I had to fill a form provided by the Delegation, where I had to mention my preferences for the department I wished to work in and they eventually called me for an interview.

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© Isabella Greppi Maturana

The EEAS has now changed the procedure for internships at the EU Delegations. Internships are now paid if the delegation can afford to pay their interns and are offered for: i) paid traineeship for young graduates with less than one year of professional experience; ii) unpaid compulsory traineeship for students already residing and studying in the host country; iii) traineeship for students of national administration schools of MS and iv) traineeship for trainee civil servants of an administration in a MS as part of their compulsory professional training. While you must have graduated from a university for paid traineeships, applicants from 3rd, 4th, or 5th year students can apply for unpaid compulsory traineeships.

Working at one of the many delegations of the EU can be an amazing experience, whether you do it at the multilateral level or at the bilateral one. I would definitely recommend it!

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

The highlight of working in the Human Rights Department was to attend the 36th session of the HRC in September, which lasts for three weeks. The most interesting part is to attend the daily EU coordination meetings, where diplomats from the 28 EU MS discuss their interests before starting the day at the HRC, as well as the ongoing side events and meetings with NGOs. The EU passed two Resolutions in African countries on Burundi and the DRC, which I followed throughout the whole HRC. Prior to the voting at the end of the HRC, there is a whole process of intense negotiations where States address their concerns during public or private informal consultations with the interested parties. A particular memory was when the EU Resolution on Burundi, which extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, passed with a majority of votes. After long negotiations, it was satisfying to see the resolution pass and be adopted by the HRC!

***

Romain – from France – European Commission (EC) – traineeship in the DG for Economic and Financial Affairs – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Romain, I was born in France and raised in the Pyrénées, close to the Spanish border. I graduated from a first master of business administration : during my studies I lived one year in Spain and one year in Brussels where I took several classes on Human resources (HR). That is why when I graduated I decided to go for another master where I could study HR. I have had so far 5 different experiences in HR (learning and development, recruitment, internal communication, career guidance and employer branding). After my graduation, I decided to take 8 months off to just travel all over Europe and both West and East coasts of the USA. After that, I applied for a volunteering job in Brussels where I worked for almost two years as a HR business manager for a consulting company.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

I was working in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) with the HR business correspondent team, which is the local HR department based in each DG. There I was in charge to support the team to launch internal projects in order to ensure staff engagement. I worked for instance on relaunching the programme for newcomers, organizing the summer school or to support staff in the realization of their projects. I believe that in my case, as a EU trainee, I had the chance to be part of a team that was trusting me with delivering projects for the greater good of our staff. From what I heard and saw, EU trainees bring fresh ideas and their motivation and this can have a positive impact on the common good for the DG (especially in HR).

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© Romain Milhé

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

My advice would be: „Build a strong network”. As I am a HR person maybe I am biased here but I believe that the traineeship is a great opportunity to meet people and build a strong network that may be helpful in the future. Go to conferences, have from time to time a coffee with colleagues or other trainees, enjoy activities outside of work with perfect strangers (that may become great friends afterwards) or simply try to look for the right connections that will give you the opportunity to talk about projects you are interested in.

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

One of my best memory can seem naive but it happened right at the end of my internship. I had to say goodbye to my team and as word was spreading that my traineeship was ending, more and more people came to me to tell me how much they appreciated my professionalism but also my kindness and big smile every time I was passing by to say hello. Of course, I could say that I was proud of being able to support my two colleagues delivering a two-week training course for more than a hundred people, but what is more important for me is to know that somehow if I ever pass by the DG ECFIN, I will be remembered.

***

Dionysia – from Greece – European Commission – Directorate General for Justice and Consumers – Data Protection Unit – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself

I am a licensed lawyer in Greece, practicing in various fields of law the last eight years. I am also holder of an LL.M. Degree in European and Comparative Social Law from Toulouse I Capitole University (France) in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece). My postgraduate studies were the incentive to become a more active European Union citizen, since they raised my interest for EU law. Working in an EU institution was a personal ambition and a professional challenge for me.
Work experience is not necessarily a prerequisite for a trainee. However, depending on the position, it is sometimes a useful asset for your personal progress. As for language skills, I speak Greek as mother tongue and I am proficient in English and French, also in terms of legal terminology. Currently, I am learning Spanish.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

In my view, the element that makes this traineeship different and precious is that EU trainees are integrated to their unit’s team and actively participate in meetings and projects. Nevertheless, the extent to which a trainee can contribute to the unit’s work also depends on other factors, such as their qualifications and professional background. An EU trainee mainly assists the unit in their tasks but also carries out work individually.
Respectively, I both performed work that was solely assigned to me or participated in my unit’s tasks and projects. My work was related to the monitoring and enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). My main task was to handle cases on the protection of personal data and the implementation of the relevant EU legislation. I also participated in a project concerning the review of existing EU legislation. Last but not least, I attended meetings, for which I had to draft minutes, I prepared memos and I had the chance to attend hearings at the European Parliament and workshops, related to data protection issues.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

First of all, do your research before applying. Look for the traineeship that better suits your profile and satisfies your professional ambitions. Also, be confident about the time period you want to carry out your traineeship: if you choose to do so right after your studies or if you prefer to gain work experience first. I don’t promote any particular choice, but I think your perception of this experience will be different depending on that. Last but not least: don’t miss the deadlines! The application and selection procedure is long, not to mention competitive.

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© Dionysia Theodoritsi

If you are lucky enough to be selected, one tip is worth remembering: Don’t hesitate to ask! Nobody knows everything and even if so, it’s not you as a trainee :). It’s more productive to have thorough understanding of the task you are assigned to rather than pretend to know and fail to accomplish it. Another tip from my experience is to never miss a chance to participate in meetings, conferences and work-related events. There might be times that the colleagues are busy enough to suggest you to attend a meeting. Don’t always wait for them. Be proactive! But at the same time be considerate. Don’t bring your team in an awkward position if the nature of the meeting does not allow your presence in it.

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moment from this experience to share with us?

The traineeship itself was an invaluable experience and a benchmark in my career. I have special memories of my participation in events, hearing, workshops and conferences. Being in the heart of EU decision-making is something that not everybody has the chance to experience and I feel privileged to have had this opportunity.
A particularly special occasion was my participation in the 25 May event, organised by my unit for the entry into application of the GDPR that prominent professionals and experts attended. A proud moment is the creation and editing of the yearbook, along with a team of six other trainees. It is a project entirely carried out by us, the yearbook team, about a book including profiles of all trainees of our session that wanted to be part of it. The idea was brought back to life again after many years and, despite the difficulties we faced, the feedback was really positive, which made me even more excited and proud for contributing in it.
Apart from work, the whole traineeship was a collage of enthralling moments: meeting so many talented people, from different ethnic, cultural, academic and professional backgrounds, having the chance to discuss with Commissioners and high-ranked officials, joining international events and making friends from all over the world were definitely among the highlights of this traineeship.

 

***

Paola – from Italy – Court of Justice of the European Union – traineeship in the Registry of the Court of Justice – in Luxembourg City

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

I have obtained a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Political Science and Diplomacy at the University of Milan and I currently study Law at the University of Bologna. After having completed my Masters Degree, thus learning about EU Institutions in a theoretical manner, I decided to apply this knowledge on a more practical scale. Indeed, I applied for an internship at the ECJ in 2017 and was recruited for one in the sunny summer of 2018.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

Generally speaking, the tasks of the interns differ based on the directorate which the intern has been assigned to. In fact, during the recruitment process, interns are selected based on their profiles as well as the needs and requirements of each directorate. If candidates are particularly interested in working for a certain directorate, I would advise them to mention this point in their applications. On a more personal note, I had the pleasure of interning at the Registry of the Court of Justice, which is responsible for handling, classifying and archiving cases and documents in an efficient manner. Moreover, speaking both French and English at a very good level is advantageous for interns when they carry out their daily tasks at the ECJ and when they stroll around in Luxembourg.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

I would say that keeping an eye on the internship’s deadlines, preparing the application well in advance, and keeping one’s cool throughout the lengthy application process, are fundamental traits of a well-organised candidate. Moreover, I would tell unsuccessful applicants not to be discouraged if they do not obtain an internship the first time they apply – competition is tough and luck always plays a role! The important thing is to serenely carry on doing the best one can at university or at work, whilst patiently sending out applications. As for applicants who do receive an acceptance letter, I would advise them to start looking for apartments and to check if their documents are in order. Once they do start the internship, it is fundamental to work hard, but exploring the city and socialising in the weekends is a must!

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

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© Paola Lo Bue Oddo

I wouldn’t say that I have one specific favourite memory seeing as the whole experience itself was fruitful and enjoyable on an intellectual and practical scale. My colleagues provided detailed background information on certain hearings whose topics were of great interest to me, meticulously explained laws or procedures which I asked them about, and provided excellent career advice. My fellow interns organised enjoyable outings, picnics and lunches, and were very pleasant, helpful and conversational. However, the most distinctive memory which I have is when, after having finished the internship, I got on the bus home, wondering if I’d ever come back to Luxembourg. Therefore I was overjoyed when a few weeks later, I received another offer by the EU Commission!

***

Sofia – from Greece – traineeship in the Permanent Representation of Greece to the EU and in the European Parliament – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself

Hello, I am Sofia Andreadaki, a Greek law school graduate currently working as an official Schuman trainee at the European Parliament in Brussels. I was previously working as a trainee lawyer in a law firm in Greece and before that as an „Erasmus placement” trainee at the ‚Permanent Representation of Greece to the E.U.’ in Brussels, for which I have been requested to talk about as well. This is actually my 3rd time living in Belgium, because I have also done my Erasmus studies semester in K.U. Leuven University, in Leuven, a couple of years ago.

2️/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship ? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

As far as my traineeship in the ‚Permanent Representation of Greece to the European Union’ last year is concerned, it lasted 3 months and it took place in Brussels. My tasks included taking part in the official working groups of the Council of EU in Brussels, at the energy and environment committee. There, I was writing down the minutes of all what the representatives of each country were saying, each of course speaking in other languages with simultaneous translation in English, then I was translating it all in Greek and sending them in the form of reports to the Greek Foreign Ministry. Every day the discussions in the working groups were so in-depth, so I learned an incredible amount of things, terminology and updates about the European Energy law, which I could’ve never learned in law school. The experience was unbelievable, because I had access to all the inside discussions on the latest topics, meetings with important policymakers and lawmaking procedures. I felt like I was present in important moments when the laws that would apply to all European countries were being created..!

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© Sofia Andreadaki

As for my current Schuman traineeship in the European Parliament, I just started it the previous week and I am already very excited about the working environment, the colleagues and the topics we deal with. I feel again that we are part of the policy making procedure of EU, which will then affect all the European households, since 80% of every member-state’s legislation is European legislation..! The experience is so fascinating, that we all feel grateful, as out of 6000 applicants, only 280 of us were selected for the official traineeship in the European Parliament in Brussels. My tasks here include attending the committee meetings of ITRE (the committee on energy, industry and research) since I am working for the ITRE committee, writing reports, doing research, preparing feedback for the official committee working groups and many more which I will discover in the next days.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

First of all, I’d advise them to dare to step out of the comfort zone, be it by applying in such exchange international programs like Erasmus studies or Erasmus placement or to job posts abroad. After that, more practical tips concerning the application procedure of the Erasmus placement traineeship (for which I’ve been requested to talk by the interviewer) would be to get informed about such programs by the University, by attending info sessions or events or ask other former erasmus students and of course by searching a lot online and asking the international office of the university. For example, in order to do my „Erasmus placement” at the Permanent Representation to the EU, I had to first search for months, get in touch with a thousand embassies, representations and consulates in every country as well as with the Erasmus office a million times, in order to gather information. After that, you send your CV to the institutions where you’d like to do your Erasmus placement and wait for admission letters which you then upload, along with many other documents, to the „Erasmus placement” official application. Then you once again wait for approval. All this procedure is very demanding, but the experience will be totally worth it, I assure you! So, I recommend to everyone to be open, search everywhere for such opportunities and keep an eye for anything interesting like that.

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moments from this experience to share with us?

Ooh I recall so many memories and moments that I could talk for hours! I can start by mentioning an outstanding moment: already this second week of our Schuman traineeship at the European Parliament, the president of the European Parliament, Mr Tajani, sent an email exclusively to us, the Schuman trainees, inviting us to a photoshooting with him and Bono, the U2 singer! And then Mr Tajani posted our photo on his facebook account, so as you can imagine we felt very honoured.

Moreover, everyday life in these experiences is so fascinating, because you are everyday working and living with international people from all around the world, in European institutions which are dreamy working environments. My Erasmus placement traineeship and the current Schuman stage (as well as the Erasmus studies semester) are/have been the best times of my life, full of so amazing people and a chance to discover what I like doing more in life and how to continue my career path. I have also learned so many things about European law in practice, that I couldn’t have learned just from university. I am also grateful for my supervisors both in the Permanent Representation and at the Parliament, who are so helpful and teach us a lot of things.

My traineeship highlights up to now at the European Parliament’s stage are: laughing so much and sharing common interests with my co-trainees, working with 15 other trainees from 10 different countries in our common office, buying a coffee machine all together, decorating our office… Feeling that we all share common interests, goals and fears, even if we come from different countries and so many more to come, since we are still only at the 2nd week!

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Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #2

Barbara Zak

This article is the second part of a series of interviews with European Union (EU) interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in the various EU institutions. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time, particularly Alex for his precious help!

Here you can find part 1.

Bálint – from Hungary – European Parliament (EP) – traineeship in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Secretariat – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a Master’s degree in European Studies and I had two traineeships in Brussels before the Schuman Traineeship, one in advocacy (=lobbying), the second in legislative monitoring (=following EU legislation and writing updates to interested companies). This being said, the majority of my fellow interns came straight from the university, so previous job experience is definitely not necessary.

2/ How did you apply for the internship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

I applied the way everyone else did – through the Parliament’s dedicated tool (although it looked quite different 12 months ago). Of course this only applies to the Schuman Traineeship, and not for Traineeships with a specific MEP or Political Party, who set up their own requirements and application procedures. The steps to be taken are quite clearly outlined on the website.

I recommend two things. First of all, read about the different DGs, directorates and units, and what they do. It is important that you apply to the department/unit which is a best fit for both your qualifications and your desires, because if you don’t do that, there is a high chance that you will not be selected, or that you will end up doing work that you dislike. If you are not completely sure what a certain department or Directorate does, either contact a trainee that worked there (you can search for them on LinkedIn), or ask on the Schuman Trainee’s Alumni Network Facebook Group.

Secondly, use keywords. As far as I know, the trainees are selected by their (future) supervisors, who are extremely busy with their normal tasks. In order to filter out the hundreds of applications somehow, they will use keywords. What these keywords are is anyone’s guess, but instead of writing a novel about your love for the EU, just imagine what skills and qualifications could be important for the role, and try to fit them all within your application.

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship ?

I was working for the Secretariat of a Parliamentary Committee, therefore I did a lot of policy work, such as preparing for meetings (e.g. Trilogues, technical meetings), drafting minutes and feedback notes, meeting with policy advisors and the assistants of MEPs, etc. But if you know well enough what your unit is doing, you can easily ask for tasks that you’d like to do.

Also, I got to go to Strasbourg for a few days on a mission, which is a lot of fun besides being professionally interesting, and I attended a lot of internal trainings, which are also very useful.

Truth is, the EP employees are extremely busy, so busy in fact that they sometimes forget to ask for your help. Therefore, my main advice is this: research thoroughly what your unit does, choose in advance what you want to work on, and just ask to be involved – the administrators will mostly be happy to give you tasks according to your preferences. Don’t just wait for your supervisor to come to you, talk also with other members of the unit, and be pro-active in offering help.

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

For me, every day was an amazing experience. I had the chance to participate in negotiating laws that will be part of history books, and gained such an insight into EU affairs that even people who spent 20-30 years in EU affairs ask me about certain things (how exactly some internal procedure goes, or what is the dynamic on an average Trilogue, etc.). At the same time, I had an amazing time with my fellow trainees, either just having lunch in the park or having beers at place lux after a long day. So try to enjoy both the professional and the personal aspects of it.

Finally, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get selected. I personally applied 4-5 times before I finally got accepted, and I know people much smarter and better educated than me who are still waiting for their chance. So don’t give up.

***

Alex – from the United Kingdom – Court of Justice of the European Union – traineeship in the English Translation Unit – in Luxembourg City

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I hold a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in European and International Law called the Integrated Common Programme, the result of a partnership between the Universities of Warwick in England, Lille 2 in France and Saarland in Germany. It was taught in English, French and German and covered areas of national, EU and international law. In terms of work experience, I taught martial arts classes for many years and worked as a customer assistant in my local supermarket throughout my studies. During secondary school, a week of work experience in a legal department of Alstom Power Service encouraged me to consider the combination of law and languages at university level, which is how I discovered my degree and, eventually, the traineeship.

2/ How did you apply for the traineeship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

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© Alex Leaver

I found the traineeships page of the Court of Justice of the EU’s website while I was looking for some case-law for a university assessment. After graduating in late 2015, I applied for the March 2016 traineeship period. The first step is to read that page of the Court’s website and, most importantly, take note of the deadlines; there are two intakes per year for paid traineeships (March and October) with corresponding application periods. The application itself is online and you can’t save it or come back to it later – I kept a Word document for the text of my application so it was simple to copy it all across once I’d finished working on it. If you’re accepted, you’ll receive a list of documents to bring on the first day (things like a doctor’s note and a clean criminal record) so make sure that you’re organised. And don’t leave house hunting until the last minute!

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

As a trainee lawyer-linguist in the English Translation Unit of the Court of Justice’s Directorate-General for Multilingualism, my tasks consisted in the translation of the Court’s legal documents (judgments, orders, requests for a preliminary ruling etc.) from French and German into English. Trainee lawyer-linguists need a degree in law due to the legal nature of the documents translated and must be able to translate from French (the working language of the Court) and one other language into their mother tongue. Trainees will also coordinate with revisers and proof-readers within their translation unit, as well as with press officers, legal terminologists and even the judge’s legal secretaries within the wider Court, thereby playing a key role in the functioning of the multilingual judicial dialogue between national courts and the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and making EU law accessible in every official language of the EU.

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

While the sheer variety of topics to translate (everything from chocolate bars to terrorism, with plenty of cases of compensation for delayed flights in between!) helped to make the lawyer-linguist traineeship very special to me, the best memories from this experience are those I made with my fellow trainees in Luxembourg, including countless birthdays, meals, cultural exchanges, nights out and trips, the Court of Justice’s summer Staff Party and watching the fireworks for Luxembourg’s national day. More than two years later, I’m still an English-language lawyer-linguist at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and I’ve been lucky enough to relive the joys of my traineeship with each new generation of trainees that has arrived since then!

***

Khushbu – from France – European Commission (EC) – traineeship in the Directorate-General for Competition (DG for Competition) – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a diversified academic background as I graduated from three different universities.
At first, I undertook a 3-year Bachelor’s degree in French and EU law studies from the Catholic University of Lille. I continued my studies at Nanterre University (close to Paris) with a 1-year master’s degree in Business law and I finally graduated from Paris Dauphine University, again in Business law.
I decided not to orientate my studies to one specific area of law but rather preferred to keep the door open to different opportunities, which I expanded through my work experiences, as follows.
I started with a couple of traineeships in small law firms in France and Ireland, practicing different fields of law alongside lawyers and barristers. Then, after having undertaken one of the best work experience at the European Commission in my career, I joined two different international law firms based in Paris as a trainee with the aim of strengthening my skills into French and EU competition law.
I passed the Paris bar exam and worked with two international companies in competition and distribution law, allowing me to experience the work of an in-house counsel.
Finally, I joined Reed Smith LLP law firm in January 2018 as an associate in the EU Competition team.

2/ How did you apply for the traineeship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

Joining an EU institution was just like a dream I wanted to experience in my life. I early inquired about the different ways to undertake a traineeship at DG Competition and waited for graduating from my 1st year of master’s degree to apply.
I applied by contacting a case handler, Mr Jindrich Kloub, who was also one of my former professor at the Catholic University of Lille, and informed him of my interest in experiencing a “stage atypique” (which is different and more flexible internship program in comparison to the Blue Book one).
I sent him to my resume and a cover letter, detailing my personal data, academic background, work experience, languages and motivations. Mr Kloub forwarded my application internally to the Deputy Head of Unit G in Cartels, who interviewed me during a conference call and challenged me through theoretical questions, latest competition case law, my linguistic skills as well as my motivations.
A couple of days later, I was very glad to receive an email from the Deputy Head of Unit offering me a traineeship, which I obviously accepted.

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

My 4-month experience with the Cartels directorate at DG Competition was amazing and full of various interesting assignments.
I actively contributed to various cartel cases I was working on.
For instance, I worked on a challenging ongoing case in which the Commission was reviewing its position. My work consisted in conducting a document review based on which the initial case team had built a cartel case, but which, at some point, seemed not to be strong enough for prosecuting the involved companies. This document review was supplemented by a new legal analysis to verify the existence of any anticompetitive conduct, beyond any shady behavior.

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© Khushbu Kumar

I also participated in the review of an appeal lodged by a company sanctioned for a cartel, by researching and suggesting legal arguments aiming at supporting the Commission’s sanction decision before the EU General Court. This challenging task allowed me to get involved directly with the Legal service of the Commission and prepare the Commission’s assessment.
Finally, and without being exhaustive, I assisted the Cartel directorate in sustaining their position in the context of the disclosure procedure before US courts, where a plaintiff claiming for damages to remedy his harm suffered following a cartel requested the US Court to enjoin the Commission to disclose very sensitive documents (including leniency applications and settlement-related documents).

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

Limiting my experience at the European Commission to one memory is very hard.
However, I feel very lucky for having been offered the opportunity to attend an exciting 3-day oral hearing with a case team. During this hearing, companies suspected of having infringed cartel rules were given the chance to explain themselves and assert their rights, legal analysis of the case and answer the Commission’s questions. Their aim was of course to convince the European Commission to drop the case by shedding light on the weaknesses of the case.
Interestingly, this hearing allowed me to put into perspective the administrative nature of the institution and draw a parallel with criminal courts.
Also, and quite surprisingly, this experience convinced me that I wanted to be on the “dark” side to represent companies and have the chance to challenge the Commission’s reasoning on each argument based on the same legal tools.

A quick word to conclude: dare applying to the European Commission for a traineeship! It’s a unique intellectual and human experience which you are the only one to turn into an exceptional one through your motivations, absolute involvement and interest. After having worked there, I felt proud to be a European citizen !

***

Luigi – from Italy – European Parliament (EP) – traineeship in the Directorate-General for Internal Policies (DG IPOL) – in Brussels

1/ Please tell us a little about yourself.

luigi

© Luigi Limone

I am an Italian young professional trying to establish a career in the field of international affairs. I hold a Master’s degree in Politics and International Relations of Asia and Africa from the Eastern University of Naples in Italy, with a major in Middle Eastern affairs and Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. I took part in an exchange academic year in Marrakesh, Morocco, as part of an Erasmus Mundus Programme for the mobility between the EU and North Africa. I have recently finished a traineeship in the European Parliament, within the official Robert Schuman Traineeship Programme. I worked for the Secretariat of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), in the Directorate-General for Internal Policies (DG IPOL). I love travelling, discovering new places and meeting people from different cultures.

2/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship? What does an EU trainee do specifically?

During my traineeship in the Parliament, I collaborated with my colleagues of the migration and asylum sub-unit on different legislative proposals reforming the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), I attended and reported on conferences, hearings and workshops on topics of interest for my Committee, both inside and outside the Parliament, I helped with the organization of events and produced relevant content for the monthly newsletter. In addition, this experience offered me the opportunity to attend trilogues (the inter-institutional negotiations which occur before the adoption of a new piece of legislation), as well as shadows meetings and technical meetings between the representatives of the different political parties.
The working days of an EU trainee in the EP differ from one another. Trainees are required to perform many different tasks, from administrative and logistical support to specific legislative tasks. This makes the experience really enriching and dynamic.
As part of the 5-month experience, trainees have the chance to participate in a mission in the EP in Strasbourg at least once. In Strasbourg, trainees have the opportunity to attend the plenary session in the hemycicle, visit the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe and discover the charm of a multi-cultural city at the heart of Europe.

3/ Are there any tips that would be useful for future EU trainees to know?

To a future EU trainee I would recommend to take the best out of this great experience, learn as much as possible, talk with supervisors and colleagues, show interest and curiosity and, if work schedules allow, attend as many conferences and events as possible in the Parliament, as this is a very good way to enrich one’s own knowledge and background.
Trainees should not forget that this experience also means a lot of fun: if you are doing your traineeship in Brussels, keep in mind that the city offers a lot of different things to do and great opportunities to have fun with your colleagues. Every Thursday, after work, in the square located right in front of the EP – Place du Luxembourg – the trainees of all the EU institutions based in Brussels meet to enjoy some time together and share a couple of beers. It’s also part of the traineeship!

4/ Do you have a special memory, one of your proudest moment from this experience to share with us?

This year, the European Parliament in Strasbourg hosted the third edition of the European Youth Event, an event which takes place every two years and aims to establish a platform to young active citizens so that they can debate their ideas with Europe’s decision makers. The third edition coincided with my mission in Strasbourg. The Parliament gave trainees who were in Strasbourg during those days the opportunity to volunteer for the organization of the event and attend some of the discussions and workshops on the future of the EU. It was one of the greatest moments throughout the whole traineeship experience: I was one of the 8,970 young people who could participate in the event, exchange ideas with peers and enjoy a great multi-cultural environment.

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Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #1

Barbara Zak

With the aim of getting more knowledge about the functioning of the European Union (EU), I have conducted several interviews with EU interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in different EU institutions. This article is the first one of a series. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time.

Here you can find more information about the traineeships offered by the EU: traineeships for students + traineeships for graduates.

Here you can find part 2.

Dorota – from Poland – European Parliament (EP) – trainee from the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw

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© Dorota Kowalska

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in European Studies from the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. I spent an Erasmus exchange in Nicosia in Cyprus. As of my work experience, I did a 1-month internship in the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London and a 1-month internship in the office of Jarosław Kalinowski (Polish MEP) in Brussels.

 2/ How did you apply for the internship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

I applied online: you have to fill in an application that is available on the website of the European Parliament. The traineeship is called “Schuman traineeship” (5 months). When you fill in the application, it is important to do it only once. You can’t save it and come back to it. You have to devote 1 hour to do it. Make sure that the internet is well-working.

  • You have to fill in personal data, academic background, work experience, languages among others;
  • There is no need to provide any evidence of language but don’t lie because they may call you in order to check it;
  • You have to write a short text showing your motivation (they pay the biggest attention to the motivation: why you chose the EP, how the EP will benefit from your traineeship);
  • Your CV is not required;
  • No health certificate saying that you are fit to work is necessary;
  • You have to provide a certificate of non-criminal record when you have been accepted (make sure to have it before applying because it may be difficult for you to get it, especially if you are abroad during your application!).

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

© Dorota Kowalska

© Dorota Kowalska

I believe that I experienced a specific EU internship in the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw (Poland) as it was in Warsaw, in a rather small office with 7-8 people and 4 trainees (all Polish citizens because Polish language knowledge is required). I shared the office with a worker involved in the program entitled “European Parliament Ambassadors’ School”. This program was devoted to pupils of secondary schools. I was involved in managing this program: sharing knowledge about the EU to pupils, organising contests on EU knowledge, distributing materials to schools and students.

As I worked in the information office, we had a lot of press conferences and meetings with Polish MEPs to organise in Warsaw. I was involved in working with the Regional Discussion Forum: we were preparing events in Szczecin and in Płock in Poland. For this type of events, we created workshops for students from secondary schools about the EU institutions and held meetings with MEPs that came from this specific region.

It was challenging because I had to prepare an event in a different location, invite people, journalists to participate in a meeting with MEPs, for instance with the MEP Roża Thun.

4/ Do you have any special memory from this experience to share with us?

I liked doing this internship because it gives the opportunity to act and put your effort in the name of the EP, to not only learn about the institutions but being part of it. You work in a European/international environment; you are meeting people from other countries. I went to Strasbourg for the plenary session of the EP in December 2017 as an observer. We were around 20 trainees from the information offices from all the Member States.

My advice is: don’t be afraid to apply! It really takes a long time to get an answer but this experience can change your life, you will meet a lot wonderful people and it can shape your future career.

 ***

Barbara – from Poland –  European Commission – trainee from the DG SCIC (DG for Interpretation) in Brussels

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a Master’s Degree in political science with journalism at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and finished Master’s studies in knowledge of culture, specialising in audiovisual culture and film analysis, at the University of Warsaw. My main professional experience though is in photography – I do fashion, event and product photography professionally since 2011. I am also experienced in graphics and journalism, and my main academic background is communication.

After graduating, I started working for Polish media, then I worked as a photographer and for the Press Office member in Congress of Women (Kongres Kobiet).  My next step was few years in the UK, where I mostly worked as a photographer and retoucher, then back in Warsaw as a journalist in the PTWP group.

2/ How did you apply for the internship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

It took me quite a few sessions to apply, as I always missed the deadline. Last August I was back in Poland from the UK for 3 months, unemployed, tired and desperate to improve my career path and move abroad again, then I realised that I can apply. And honestly, I didn’t believe I could be accepted, as my background was mostly related to photography and I struggled with finding any job. I filled the online application, which is very complex, you obviously need to show your academic and professional background, skills and mostly motivation. It also requires applicants to show their areas of interests, what will be later on prioritising the DG’s choices of candidates (but not always).

The next step is the document verification – whatever information was given in the application form, it needs to be confirmed with documents like diplomas, recommendation letters from workplaces or language certificates. It all has to be uploaded in electronical version.

Later on candidates are put into the Blue Book, to be reviewed by DGs. That’s when the choices are being made – if a DG is interested, an advisor calls the candidate. In my case Lieke was my advisor and I remember having a great talk during the phone call and I did very well on impression. I already knew that although it was not confirmed yet, I am high on the list in my DG. The official decision came by the end of January.

Like I mentioned, I was rather sceptical about my chances and I made it. I was very precise with filling my application and during the interview I was myself, showing my engagement and interest in getting the traineeship. I would advise to be natural, be yourself – in my case I ended up in a great Unit, which fitted my skills and interests allowing me to develop, so I guess there is a place for anyone in the Commission after all.

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© Barbara Pawlik

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

I was assigned into the DG SCIC (DG for Interpretation), Unit C1 – Corporate Conference Organisers.

My main duties were complex: 1. Graphic design, 2. Photography on the events, 3. Working during the events, helping on organising and managing conferences, 4. Additional help on surveys, conference correspondents network, research.

During my traineeship I created some visual materials for my Unit, presentations on Green Events and how to prepare the event. I also created a graphic material on Sli.do tool and how to use it which was spread throughout the Commission and other DGs. I attended many conferences while taking photos and organising events.

I was also very active in projects related to trainees activities (outside of my work as a trainee). I was an official photographer of the Trainees Committee and I photographed events for trainees such as meetings with M. Barnier, M. Vestager, D. Tusk, E. Bienkowska. I was also photographing a Job Fair for trainees and Euroball, the biggest party of the traineeship and activities of subcommittees: strategic simulation in EPSC, visit in Google Digital Atelier, conference on diversity with EP members, football tournament between EP and EC trainees. I helped prepare, set up and document the Farewell Conference, during which I was also an official photographer. I was a judge and creator of a photo contest for trainees and member of a Yearbook team, creating, designing and making the biggest memory of the traineeship – printed Yearbook.  As a coordinator of the Film Subcommittee, I provided and organised weekly screenings of European movies for trainees.

I also started my photography project “Project Europeans” by taking portrait photos to show the diversity and beauty of European people.

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

First of all, I was called a Unicorn in the Commission, as I am a creative artist.

My traineeship was 5 months of special memories, the best time in my life full of the most wonderful people, moments and a huge chance to discover who I am, how to continue my career path. It was a time when I developed and grew as a person and professionally, it boosted my self-esteem, confidence – it’s been amazing, especially in terms of people I’ve met.

My first and biggest great moment was shaking hands with president Macron on a conference while I was hunting for a good picture. I also met president Tusk and commissioners Vestager, Bienkowska, Navracics, Katainen, Oettinger. My traineeship highlights were: countless lunches with different trainees, fries and long talks in the park with my friend Vladiana, meeting trainees from 10 different countries on coffee and realising we all speak different languages but we love our company, watching World Cup internationally, Euroball talk with few trainees saying they all have some Polish roots, the best night to morning walk home after Euroball ending with having Portuguese tea at 7AM, spending days and nights with my best friends Vera and Dainius, watching all trainees playing one team in football game with pure joy. And most of all, meeting people, making new friends, seeing joy in their eyes to see me and missing those who left. Feeling accepted, feeling European, feeling moved on the Farewell Conference and knowing that whenever I go in Europe, I will meet friendly faces.

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„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 voters that may have negative effects on the future of the organisation. He stressed out 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. It is necessary 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 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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Photo : Barbara Zak

Prof. Jerzy Buzek (born in Śmiłowice (actual Czech Republic) on the 3rd of July 1940) is an eminent Polish politician and fervent pro-EU MEP. 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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From left to right : Barbara Zak, Prof. Jerzy Buzek, Dorota Kowalska Photo : Barbara Zak

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 the 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 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 teaching 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.

dr-tatiana-coutto

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 des oneself prepare a research career after completing a 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.

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview and for your time.

 

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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 claim 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, asked for a second referendum on this topic. However, May’s government declared that a second referendum would 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 Democrat politicians, along with polls, are against the will of the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to have a second independence referendum. Actually, 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 in 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 – Theresa 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 pro-Brexit supporters 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 provides companies registered in the UK with an utter access to over 500 million consumers in a tariff-free trade area. In a nutshell, it is easier and cheaper to sell in 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 and 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 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 be related 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 undermines its 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. 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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