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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Writing Competition – Results!

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Thank you for all articles that you’ve sent to us for the purpose of the competition. We are really grateful for your interest.

The Editorial Board has decided upon two students, the winners are:

1. Katarzyna Stachyra (MA in Law, 1st year student of MA in European Studies).

2. Magdalena Styrnik (Faculty of Law, 5th year).

Congratulations! The winning articles will be published soon.

 

As a result of the competition, this is our current Editorial Board:

Emil Wojtaluk – the Editor in Chief

Anita Weprzędz – Vice Editor in Chief

Adrianna Brzozowska

Kamil Augustyniak

Katarzyna Stachyra

Magdalena Styrnik