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.

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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Reklamy

#EYE2018 : Participating in the European Youth Event

Barbara Zak

On the 1st and 2nd of June 2018, the third edition of the European Youth Event (EYE2018) occurred in the Strasbourg’s seat of the European Parliament (EP). Around 8,000 young Europeans came to the event to discuss ideas for a better European Union (EU), to meet MEPs and to develop their knowledge about the functioning of this institution, but above all to meet other young people from all over the EU and their ambitions, passions and projects. I participated in this year’s edition in order to have my own personal experience of this event.

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

The core of the event consisted in the activities that each of the participants chooses to take part in. As for me, the most impressive activity was the discussion with Antonio Tajani in the hemicycle where participants could directly ask the current President of the European Parliament questions about already selected topics. It utterly felt as if we were in the shoes of the MEPs. Other activities that I joined were the fictional trial of the EU that was accused of having a democratic deficit (roles of the participants were divided between judges, prosecution, defence and jury), organised by the Paris-based think tank Argo ; a political rap battle between London-based rappers that represented the socialist, liberal, green and conservative parties of the EP ; and a conference about the Brexit negotiations and their impact.

 

 

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Workshop „Europe on Trial ! Who’s to blame for the break-up?”. Credits : Argo think tank

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Photo: Barbara Zak

It could be felt from this event that young European citizens are very much attached to the EU as they believe it helps them in various fields such as studying abroad (with the programme Erasmus+), in their search for a job or with the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital.

The major focus of this edition was the 2019 European Parliament elections, meaning that the EU encouraged the participants to vote at these elections. The EYE2018 seems to be a very good initiative to promote and thus increase the turnout of young European citizens at these elections as they are more inclined to spread the word about it to their fellow young European citizens.

 

 

 

Below you can find some impressions written by other participants of the EYE2018.

Zoé from Copenhagen

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Photo: Anaïs Cathala

During the EYE, I experienced a concentration of passionate and driven people, creating an inspiring atmosphere for me to extend my personal limits. Talking in front of a large audience in the hemicycle, a fraction of the European youth, was an experience that I will not forget. Overall, the EYE inspired me to further become active in youth groups and involve myself in activities that aim at strengthening the influence of the European youth.

 

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Photo : Maria Joanico

 

 

Maria from Lisbon

The EYE was my first direct contact with the European Union. It had a vibrant atmosphere and the activities I participated in were very insightful – not only for understanding European youth’s ideas and thoughts nowadays, but also to understand EU problems and its benefits as well. It was a good and rewarding experience to participate in helping to build a better future for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Felix from Kufstein

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Photo : Felix Buchauer

Many consider the European Union to have alienated with its people due to a lack of communication. The EYE offers a possibility for younger people to overcome this feeling and really embrace the EU. Lots and lots of discussions, presentations and talks allow not only to gain a lot of information about the EU, but also to get into contact with a lot people also involved in the topic. Overall it really is a great chance to broaden one’s horizon and to understand that the EU is not just a complicated superstructure, but our present and our future, we can shape it, we just have to get involved!

 

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Photo : Victoria Chatelier

Victoria from Nantes

As a European citizen but also a law student, I wanted to get a new experience and thus I took part in this event. I attended a debate about the corruption perception index of 1995 (transparency.org) and how to evaluate corruption in countries which are at the end of a civil war or not. The main part of the debate was the focus on the means used to decrease corruption and protect human rights. The speakers gave us some initiatives, projects that can be set up and then we shared our ideas with them. It was very concrete.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to hear Ms Lamiya Aji Bashar and Mr Denis Mukwege who are two Sakharov prizes laureates. They shared with us a part of what they have seen, what they have lived. It was very emotional and inspiring.

(The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was established by the European Parliament in 1988 in order to honour people that consecrated their lives to the defence of human rights and the freedom of thought. Ms Lamiya Aji Bashar was awarded the prize in 2016 while Mr Denis Mukwege was awarded the prize in 2014.)

Eventually I was present at a debate about environment. I noted that young European people showed a particular interest in this issue since there was a very strong debate and the big lecture hall was overcrowded.

I have several impressions about this event that I would not have expected :

First of all, the participants’ age – they were teenagers who came with their teacher. Yet were very much involved. It depicted a positive image of the youth, very far from the cliché that we sometimes hear sometime about young people and their disinterest in what’s happening in the world in general.

Secondly, this event allowed us to share our ideas at the end of each discussion sessions. The first step to be heard was achieved, which means that if you want to do more for the European Union, you really can.

Thirdly, it was an event that was based a lot on culture. There were theatrical and dance performances, and also music bands from different European countries playing on open spaces in or outside the parliament, for instance the Yo!Fest. It was a very much appreciated surprise.

To conclude, this event was a real source of motivation and inspiration in getting more involved in what I believe.  I will finish with this little sentence which was on my mind at the end of these two days : « Be audacious, you can do something even if you’re young. »

*

 

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

In addition, our group also visited the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where we met with a legal expert who explained us the functioning of the Court.

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Photo: Barbara Zak

Last but not least, the city of Strasbourg is truly lovely with its timber framing houses, the river Ill in la Petite France historic quarter, and not to forget the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Strasbourg!

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak
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Photo: Barbara Zak

The official site of the EYE2018 :

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/european-youth-event/en/home.html

EYE on Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/ep_eye/

Here you can find the coverage of the EYE2016 by fellow writers of the EUROpens blog :

https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/european-youth-event-2016-1/

https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/european-youth-event-2016-2/

 

 

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Irish people vote for the legalisation of abortion

Barbara Zak

On the 25th of May 2018, a referendum was held in Ireland concerning the legal authorisation of abortion in the country. Irish citizens voted in favour of maintaining or repealing of the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, that is to say to allow or not the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas) to enact laws regarding the termination of pregnancy.

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Copyright : Niall Carson/PA

The Eighth Amendment was introduced into the Irish Constitution following the 1983 referendum. It prohibits abortion in almost all cases as both the mother and the unborn child have a right to live. It officially made abortion illegal.

The Yes won over the No regarding the legalisation of abortion with 66.40% vs 33.60% of the votes. Nearly in every parliamentary constituencies, the Repeal of the amendment vote was predominant, except for the Donegal constituency. Thus, the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018, which is the legal name of the amendment to the constitution, will abrogate the article 40.3.3° of the Irish Constitution that prohibited abortion. Health Minister Simon Harris said that Irish people could expect the abortion legislation to pass by the autumn.

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Photo by Blue-Haired Lawyer.

Most political parties endorsed a Yes campaign, such as the Labour Party, the Green Party or Sinn Féin. However, it was mostly the issue regarding Savita Halappanavar’s death after being denied an abortion during a miscarriage that affected people and stirred the controversy surrounding the strictness over possibilities to abort. We should note that the turnout was high with 64.13% of the registered voters that came to the polling stations. During the campaign, the focus was not only on the easing of the restrictive regime that already existed (e.g. the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013)) but to permit women to have the choice over abortion or not (up to twelve weeks of pregnancy). The international press welcomed the outcome of the referendum, even claiming that “liberty won in Ireland” (El País). On the other hand, anti-repeal partisans highlighted that every unborn child has a right to live and that abortion simply means killing a defenseless child who is not granted any choice over his own life.

In Europe, abortion is utterly illegal in Malta. It is legal in Northern Ireland and Poland when the life of the mother is in danger, when she faces health issues, in case of rape or if the foetus is defective. In the United Kingdom, Iceland and Finland, abortion is allowed just like in the case of Northern Ireland and Poland with the addition of socioeconomic factors.

 

 

 

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Sources :

„An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht, 2018
Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018” (no. 29 of 2018, PDF) : https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2018/29/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/25/irish-abortion-referendum-explained-what-you-need-to-know

http://www.thejournal.ie/repeal-yes-4034251-May2018/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/how-the-yes-and-no-sides-won-and-lost-the-abortion-referendum-1.3509924

http://www.thejournal.ie/world-reaction-4037769-May2018/

http://www.thejournal.ie/simon-harris-abortion-2-4039539-May2018/

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/25/europe/ireland-abortion-referendum-intl/index.html

What you need to know about Ireland’s bitterly-debated abortion vote

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/abortion-referendum/abortion-facts

http://www.euronews.com/2018/01/30/which-european-countries-have-the-strictest-abortion-rules-

https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/05/25/opinion/1527275725_504618.html

https://www.corriere.it/esteri/18_maggio_27/a-dublino-si-volta-paginaanche-tanti-erroridi-chiesa-sempre-venerata-7ce23972-611d-11e8-9f1c-2fb6ab417c7d.shtml?refresh_ce-cp

 

„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.

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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.

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Dr Tatiana Coutto

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

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

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

 

2 – The profession of researcher may not be very clear to everyone. Could you explain what it consists in? How 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/

Working in the European Commission – an interview with Jindrich Kloub

Barbara Zak

 

Professor Jindrich Kloub, DG Competition, European Commission

Jindrich Kloub, DG Competition, European Commission

As a former student of the Catholic University of Lille, I had the opportunity to meet Mr Jindrich Kloub, who was my teacher of “Competition policy in the EU”. However, he firstly works as an EU civil servant at the Directorate-General for Competition (DG for Competition). He kindly accepted my request for doing a short interview about his career which may be helpful for students who aspire to work in the EU.

1- Could you tell us about your academic background and the internships you have done? Was it in accordance with your career in the European Commission?

I studied law at the Charles University in Prague. Following graduation I worked as a lawyer for the City of Prague and later as an associate at a Prague office of an international law firm. In both of these jobs I dealt with commercial and corporate law. In parallel, I volunteered as a pro bono attorney at a human rights NGO in Prague, dealing with cases of international child abduction. To make a long story short, my studies and career prior to me joining the European Commission were almost completely unrelated to EU law and institutions.

2- How did you apply for the DG for Competition ? What was the procedure to enter this institution?

In 2003, shortly after my graduation from law school I applied for the EPSO competition that was organized in connection with Czech Republic joining the EU. Having passed the competition, I was placed on a reserve list and eventually found a job at DG Competition.

3- What does your work consist in at the DG for Competition?

I handle investigations into major European and international cartels, focusing mainly on cartels in the financial sector. My daily work is varied and encompasses handling investigative steps such as organizing and conducting dawn-raids or drafting requests for information, as well as prosecutorial and adjudicative tasks such as analysing evidence, drafting Commission prohibition and fining decisions, calculating fines and so on. In addition to my work on cases, I work on several policy projects related to fines, private damage litigation and others. Thanks to this variety of different tasks I keep enjoying my work for more than 8 years now.

4- While working for the EU, you are also teaching competition at the Catholic University of Lille. Do you have any other involvement in other fields or associations?

Between my work at the Commission, teaching commitments at the Catholic University, occasional participation at conferences and publications I find very little time for other professional engagements.

5- What would you advise to students who aim to work in the EU institutions?

As I see on my own story and the stories of my colleagues, there are many paths to a job at the European Institutions. The one element they all have in common is a proficiency in a foreign language. That is an absolute must. Therefore, I would urge students to work on their language skills so as to be able to comfortably work in another language.

Also, a great way to find out whether the work of an EU civil servant is something that one really likes is a traineeship at one of the EU institutions. This is a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of the EU institutions, make new friends and grow professionally.

Finally, I would advise them to pursue their interest and don’t be afraid to try different internships and work engagements. That way they will see what they truly enjoy in practice and not only in the abstract. And if that leads them to the EU institutions, they will be all the more valued for their experience.

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

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The Incessant Spanish Political Crisis

Barbara Zak

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Since the last parliamentary elections, Spain has been suffering from an institutional impasse as the leader of the winning party People’ Party (Partido Popular – PP), Mariano Rajoy, turned down king Felipe VI’s offer to form a new government. He explained his decision by stating that he does not have the absolute majority in the parliament but rather a majority of negative votes that would be against any of his proposed list of a government. As a result, the leader of the party in second place „Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party” (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, was asked by the king to form a new government instead of Mariano Rajoy. However, as the PSOE party neither has the absolute majority, negotiations with other parties are necessary. Thus its leader asked for a period of a month before handing over his list of the ministers. In order to fully understand the actual political situation in Spain, we should focus on the results of the parliamentary elections.

 

Summary of the 2015 parliamentary elections’ results

Source: BBC (http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/05C9/production/_87318410_spain_elections_v2.png)

Source: BBC

On the 20th of December of 2015, the results of the parliamentary elections have revealed the end of the two-party system that was well-established, as the seats have been shared between four parties. The party with the most votes casted was the right-wing and conservative People’s Party with Mariano Rajoy as their leader (who was the previous head of the government). They earned 28.7% votes and 123 seats won in the Congress of Deputies. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party was the second party to have the most votes casted : 22% with 90 seats earned. The third party that received 20.7% and 69 seats was the left-wing party, created in 2014, Podemos (translated from Spanish as „We can”), with Pablo Iglesias Turrión as their leader. The 2015 parliamentary elections were their very first election. The fourth party that earned a decent number of votes is the centre-right party C’s which stands for Ciudadanos (translated into English as „Citizens”). They won 40 seats with 13.9% of the votes. The parties that arrive in fifth and sixth places are Catalan nationalist parties : Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – ERC) and Democracy and Freedom (Democràcia i Libertat – DiL). They have earned less than 3% out of all of the votes. This considerable split of the votes has a consequence : no party has the absolute majority, that is to say none of them have received at least 176 seats (half of 350 seats plus one seat).

 

The necessity to find an agreement through negotiations

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though the PP has won the highest number of votes and thus the possibility to form a government, no other party wishes to form a coalition with it since it is rumored to be utterly corrupted. This led to Rajoy’s refusal to form a government. As a result, we could say that the fate of the political issues is now in Sánchez’s hands. However, it is not the case because even if he forms a coalition with one of the young parties Podemos or C’s, they would still not have the absolute majority. Sánchez could count on a coalition with the socialist electoral alliance Popular Unity (Unidad Popular), but they have only won two seats in the Congress of the Deputies – hence the necessity to have a coalition PSOE-Podemos-C’s. However, the problem is that these parties have different opinions concerning the Catalan independence. Basically, Podemos is in favour of organizing a referendum concerning the independence in this region, unlike C’s. Yet Sánchez does not seem to want to surrender as he may intend to have a consent regarding the fight against unemployment, social inequality and corruption, and he might propose a constitutional reform to move towards a federal state in order to regulate the Catalan issue. On the other hand, if Sánchez plans to leave C’s out of its negotiations and rather have a left-wing coalition PSOE-Podemos-Popular Unity, which would be more plausible and feasible, they would still not have the absolute majority. In the end, they would need the votes of the Catalan nationalist parties to be added to their votes, that would request the independence of Catalonia. But these are only suppositions – at this time of the year, we cannot make clear statements.

The transition from a two-party system to a multi-party system illustrates the lack of trust of the Spanish people towards the long-standing parties as they cast their vote for recently created parties. This switching means that Spanish people have no longer put their faith in the „incompetent” politicians of the well-established parties but rather in young political parties, with leaders showing their will and vigour to change the country, yet without any experience of the political field. This political crisis is the inevitable consequence of the economic crisis that has affected Spain since 2008.

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SOURCES

The United Kingdom:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35147266

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/22/spanish-prime-minister-rajoy-kings-petition-new-government

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/02/spains-king-picks-socialist-chief-to-try-to-form-government

 

France:

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2015/12/20/01003-20151220ARTFIG00156-espagne-rajoy-face-au-casse-tete-des-alliances.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2016/01/22/01003-20160122ARTFIG00394-espagne-rajoy-renonce-a-former-un-gouvernement-pour-l-instant.php

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2016/02/03/en-espagne-les-socialistes-vont-essayer-de-former-un-gouvernement_4858287_3214.html

 

Spain:

http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2016/02/02/actualidad/1454437134_638707.html?rel=lom

http://www.thelocal.es/20151223/spains-socialist-refuse-to-back-rajoy-bid-to-form-new-government

http://www.elcorreo.com/bizkaia/politica/201602/05/pablo-iglesias-ofrecera-apoyo-20160205024739-rc.html?ns_campaign=noticias-relacionadas&ns_mchannel=bottom&ns_source=politica&ns_linkname=noticia&ns_fee=0